Matthew Moynihan evaluates the consequences of the impeachment of President Donald Trump for the Democratic party and the campaign of Joe Biden – are they playing a losing game?
On September 24th, amidst a suitably muted and sombre press briefing in Washington D.C. out strode House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to deliver some of the most consequential political rhetoric in modern American history: “The actions of the Trump presidency [have] revealed the dishonourable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. Therefore today, I am announcing… an official impeachment inquiry.”
The announcement came after it was revealed that a whistleblower report submitted to the Director of National Intelligence contained credible accusations that the US President had withheld military aid to the Ukraine for over a week for his own political gain. The supposed intention being to pressure newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25th phone call to investigate former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s unscrupulous business dealings in the Ukraine.
The abuse of office by Trump is crystal clear in the partial transcript of the call which was declassified under the orders of the President and subsequently released by the White House. President Zelensky told Trump that the Ukrainian Government were close to making a new order of Javelin Defence Missiles to which Trump responded, “I would like you to do us a favour though […] There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that… Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution [of his son] so if you can look into it … it sounds horrible to me.”
After accusations of obstruction of justice in the Mueller Report, the Trump University scam, the manipulation of national emergency funds to maintain a political promise, the inflation of wealth in order to access streams of credit, multiple bankruptcies and multiple sexual assault accusations, who would have guessed that Donald Trump was both morally and temperamentally unfit to be the leader of the free world? Certainly not the American electorate – and as things stand it is quite likely he will be re-elected. Caught-up in a media ecosystem of Fox News and a diet of conspiracy theories, Trump supporters worship the words of their callous Messiah. Famously, he stated as much during the 2016 race at an Iowa campaign rally, proclaiming “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
The House of Representatives needs only a simple majority to bring articles of impeachment against the President, and as the house is controlled by the Democrats, we can take this as a given. The issue is the Republicans control the Senate, where the ultimate decision lies. A two-thirds majority would need to convict for the President to be removed. This would be unprecedented in American history, and bipartisanship is more prevalent than ever before. No matter what Trump does, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will still stonewall any attempt to remove the President from office. The point is impeachment is intended to serve as a testimony for the American voter-turned-judiciary in 2020, not as a basis to tear Trump kicking and screaming from the Oval Office.
The claims that Biden prevented the prosecution of Ukrainian gas company Burisma, which hired his son Hunter, whilst in office are completely unsubstantiated, but the danger for the former Vice-President and Democratic Party is that the Trump campaign will make these corruption claims the centre of their re-election campaign. For the Democratic Party, to choose Biden could be to repeat the mistake that was made in 2016. It would be Hillary’s emails plus four years, minus an American public able to discern reality. Biden in the context of impeachment is a liability for the Democrats. In 2+2=5 America, a less-muddied candidate is the only hope of beating Trump. Even if it means an innocent must take the hit. The danger of not doing so is four more years of presidential vandalism.