Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi
Readers of Saturday Musing will bear with and pardon me for continuing with the State of the Nation – of the United States of America that witnessed historic political development with President Donald Trump walking into the history books as the only American President to be impeached twice in a four-year term.
Such is the magnitude of the rapid events taking place in the US of A, with the Senate and the Congress voting to impeach the President, that it would be in the fitness of things to stick to this chapter on American democracy.
Will the second impeachment of President Trump, soon to be citizen Trump in a little over 100 hours, spark of similar violence that shook the Capitol that will be the venue for President-elect Jo Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris January 20 inauguration. Cautious security agencies have postponed a rehearsal for the event due to security concerns, especially as the ongoing investigations into the January 6 Insurrection reveals more scary information.
Celebrations for the event have also been scaled down considerably, also due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, with authorities clamping down on permissions for holding protests on the inauguration day. Officials fear plans of armed protests in Washington and other States as per the chatter on the internet accessed by the intelligence agencies, media reports from America suggest. It may be recalled that the attack on Capitol Hill left five persons dead and scores injured.
A full-scale investigation is on into the attacks, including a close look at the possible involvement of Trump in inciting the violence and the likely participation of any Republican lawmakers.
It is amid this backdrop that the second impeachment needs to be looked at, with Democrats and few Republicans too baying for Trump’s blood. For them, they are not waiting for the investigations to throw up proof–in their mind they have already convicted the President. It is for the first time that the impeachment vote has been a bipartisan affair with 10 Congressmen and women from the Republican side crossing over and voting to impeach the President.
Now, the Democrats appeared to be determined to see the Impeachment to its logical conclusion with the Senate sentencing, President Trump, for inciting violence at Capitol Hill. For sure, the Democrats would need support from the Republican side to make up for the two-third numbers needed to hold Trump guilty and sentence him. Trump cannot be removed from office as he would have already completed his term and gone out of the White House.
But the sentencing could involve incapacitating him from running for the President’s office in 2024, a prospect that several in his own party may balk at given the damage that he did to the image of the party that now needs a thorough overhaul and rebuilding of the organization. More important, Trump may be gone, but Trumpism lives on is the fear of the Republican who want to break clean away from the soon to be private citizen Trump.
It is for this reason that few Republicans could entertain the notions of siding with the Democrats in the Senate and finish the Trump chapter once and for all. Democrats totally ignored the pleas of the Republicans not to press for Impeachment as it would serve no purpose as President Trump was anyway going and that such a move would deepen the divisions within the American society rather than unify them at this critical juncture. What Impeachment can do is to bar the individual in question from holding further office in the future. And for disqualification as punishment, a simple majority in the Senate will do, and for this Democrats do not need the support of Republicans at all. But a grey area as of now is whether someone can be punished, before being held guilty–for which Senate must vote in the resolution with a two-thirds majority.
But more ominous for Trump is the fact that as Vice President, Kamala Harris will be the President of the Senate and will have the tie-breaker vote in case of the 50-50 split in the Senate. After two Democrats won the Senate runoffs held along with the Presidential elections, the Democrats have for the first time in recent years taken control with an equal number of seats. The Republicans and Democrats have 50 members each in the 100-member house.
During the vote in the Congress to impeach the President, at least 10 Republican Congress members broke ranks and voted to remove Trump. They too were of the view that the rioters were whipped up by Trump’s rhetoric over the months and they had sought to capture or assassinate elected officials in the United States Government in their attack on Capitol. Slogans of “Hang Mike Pence (Vice President)” were reverberating as the rioting mob ran through Capitol hill, visuals of which were beamed across the world on television news channels.
Even as the preparations for the inauguration of the Biden-Harris administration was on in full swing, visuals of White House officials leaving with a framed picture of Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, bust of Abe Lincoln and a stuffed bird, among other things were shown on television channels, indicating that it was now all over for President Trump who has few hours left in the White House.
For Trump personally, it has been a torrid 2020 and unhappy new year, so far, and one that promises to progressively worsen as he begins to spend time as Private Citizen Trump. As it is, banks and corporations have begun withdrawing favours they had granted earlier, sports bodies taking away sporting tournaments from his properties and his party leaders shunning him.
White House sources, papers report, that his last week in office was one that he would want to forget in a hurry. Isolated, feeling ignored and angry at, well almost everyone and especially angry at Vice President Pence for not holding up certification of election results in the Senate and the Congress, President Trump is going out of the White House in ignominy.
And he does not even have access to social media to rant, as he usually did in the past. Tech giants operating social media outlets like Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and the like had banished him from their respective sites for his alleged toxic content.
And as they say this is only the trailer.
Trump, and his family members could be facing a slew of lawsuits and even criminal cases when all the previous cases are dug up. President Trump is already under investigation for tax fraud by the New York district attorney.
As they say, when it rains, it pours.
(Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political changes across the country. He was associated with the Press Trust of India, The Hindu, Sunday Observer, and Hindustan Times. He can be reached on [email protected]
and Twitter handle @kvlakshman)