Sunday, February 2, 2020

Trump impeachment

With the end of the impeachment trial now in sight and acquittal assured, a triumphant Mr. Trump emerges from the biggest test of his presidency emboldened, ready to claim exoneration and take his case of grievance, persecution and resentment to the campaign trail.

The president was impeached in December for abuse of power over pressure on US ally Ukraine to announce investigations that would have helped him politically, including into Joe Biden, a leading challenger for this year's presidential ballot.

Biden is among the candidates Monday in the Iowa caucuses that choose the state's Democratic nominee and mark the official start of election season.

The selection process in largely rural Iowa, coinciding with final impeachment arguments in Washington, will be closely watched as a sign as to which of 11 Democratic candidates are gaining early momentum to challenge Trump in November's election.

At only the third impeachment trial of a US president, Trump is all but assured of being acquitted Wednesday, the day after his annual "State of the Union" speech, which the president said will carry a "very, very positive message."

Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate to 47 for the Democrats, but a two-thirds majority, or 67 senators, is needed to remove him from office.

A day before the first contest of the 2020 election, two days before Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address and three days before his expected acquittal, they and other Republicans appeared to be coalescing around a more nuanced argument: Mr. Trump’s efforts to push Ukraine into investigating a political rival while withholding critical military aid might not have been appropriate. But that did not warrant the president’s removal from office for the first time in American history.

Adam Schiff, the leader of the House prosecutors, known as impeachment managers, told CBS on Sunday that it was "pretty remarkable" that senators on both sides had acknowledged that Democrats proved their case against the president.

Mr. Alexander first took that position last week, when he announced that he would vote against the consideration of new witnesses and documents in Mr. Trump’s trial. He acknowledged the merits of the House case for removing the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress: that the president had withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Joni Ernst on Sunday said Trump's behavior was troubling but not impeachable.

Alexander, of Tennessee, suggested Trump had been naive in asking a foreign ally to look into Biden and his son Hunter's business dealings in Ukraine, which Republicans have claimed without evidence were corrupt.

Then he added: "The bottom line: it's not an excuse. He shouldn't have done it."

But a senior administration official briefing reporters on Friday said the president will use his State of the Union address to celebrate “the great American comeback” and present “a vision of relentless optimism” encouraging Congress to work with him. Mr. Trump plans to pursue an agenda of cutting taxes again, bringing down prescription drug prices, completing his trade negotiations with China and further restricting immigration.

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