Biden has been busy mending fences but keeping progressive Democrats corralled will be challenging

Citizen Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial is over.  Much of the US enthralled and horrified by how close America came to an insurrection on January 6, but President Joe Biden is forging ahead.

Nearly a month into his job, he has set about mending fences with an enthusiasm that belies his years.  He had a torrid two-hour phone call with China’s president  Xi-Jinping, chiding him over his treatment of Muslim Uighurs and upholding Trump’s designation of the situation as “genocide”.

He has promised Beijing tough commercial competition once the US economy revives – due later this year, according to the forecasters. 

Likewise, he was hard-nosed with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, raising the poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny.

In what so far has been a symbolic gesture, he has returned the US to the UN Human Rights Council, a group of 47 countries whose own record on the subject is debatable. He has ordered a review of arms sales and pulled US support for the civil war in Yemen.  

He says he will soften Trump’s harsh approach to refugees and take in 125,000, up from 15,000. Continue reading “Biden has been busy mending fences but keeping progressive Democrats corralled will be challenging”

Trump is silenced (on social media at least) but may be impeached in the dying days of his presidency

The wheels are fast falling off the presidency of Donald J Trump as the FBI, various police forces, US intelligence agencies and now the political parties consider his fate.  The more agencies inquire into the conduct, motives and organisation of the rioters who stormed the Capitol last week, the more disturbing elements appear.

There are two political debates under way: whether Trump should be impeached (a majority of the Lower House thinks this is the way to go) and/or whether the 25th amendment to the US Constitution should be invoked and Trump be removed.

On Friday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a target for the rioters, called Trump unbalanced and unhinged. She called the chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, to ensure the nuclear codes were in good, sane hands.

Impeachment could begin as soon as today. The question is whether it should immediately be passed and sent to the Senate to conduct a trial – or whether to delay. Continue reading “Trump is silenced (on social media at least) but may be impeached in the dying days of his presidency”

And McConnell shows how Republicans are likely to play the post-impeachment game

There’s been good coverage of the impeachment case against Donald Trump.  If you found it a little harder to get a sense of why the Republican-leaning half of America has seemed less impressed by it, listen to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s statement of the case for dismissing the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress (despite the old saw that the latter is one of President’s main duties).

McConnell cast the impeachment exercise as a case of partisan fever in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives – with the Senate’s job being to break the fever, before it breaks the country. Continue reading “And McConnell shows how Republicans are likely to play the post-impeachment game”

Bruised Democrats can now reflect on how they managed Iowa vote and (more important) the impeachment process

President Donald Trump has ended the week on the highest note since his election in 2016.  Although impeached by the House of Representatives, the Senate saved his bacon by voting down the two issues of impeachment – abuse of power and obstructing Congress. This followed on a bullish address in his annual State of the Union.

On the other side of the political divide, the Democrats’ first caucus of election year descended into farce when the Iowa Democratic Party machine couldn’t get a new app to work. Two days after the caucus, only 62% of the vote was available, with Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg ahead of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders by a whisker.  Joe Biden trailed a distant fourth.

No wonder Trump was chortling.

With regard to the impeachment, did the Dems call it right and what about their tactics?

In both the Nixon and Clinton cases, the lower House used a special investigator to conduct inquiries, with the powers to call witnesses under oath. Continue reading “Bruised Democrats can now reflect on how they managed Iowa vote and (more important) the impeachment process”

Bill Clinton’s nemesis is now defending Donald Trump

One of the more compelling moments in the Trump impeachment proceedings was Monday’s defence statement by former Solicitor General and federal Court of Appeals judge, Ken Starr.  That is Ken Starr, the court-appointed special prosecutor who investigated former President Bill Clinton when he was in office, and whose report provided the basis for the unsuccessful attempt to impeach him.

Starr’s role in the current trial – for which he is perhaps uniquely qualified – was to provide a judicial historical perspective.

Nearing the end of what, in less partisan circumstances, would be termed a long and distinguished career, his presentation was more academic colloquium than rigorous interrogation of the facts.  One might almost think that he sees his role as an officer of the court, rather than an advocate. Continue reading “Bill Clinton’s nemesis is now defending Donald Trump”

Partisan senators will be jurors for Trump trial – and the defence team will get help from Senate leader

Some time next month the US Senate will try President Trump and determine whether he should be removed from office.  But there’s no doubt the Republican-controlled upper house will ensure that he remains in the White House, and – if the polls are confirmed – he will be re-elected in November.

Government resumes work in the US capital on January 6 when the Democrats and Republicans will continue sparring over the conduct of the trial. In principle, the Senate has to act as a jury with Chief Justice John Roberts in the chair.

So far, Republicans have shown no indications of neutrality nor any intention of observing constitutional safeguards.

Senate leader Mitch McConnell says he is coordinating the defence with the White House.  He and some of his fellow GOP senators are looking for a quick event. Continue reading “Partisan senators will be jurors for Trump trial – and the defence team will get help from Senate leader”

Impeachment hearings to be brought into a public arena but polls show Trump retains strong support

In Washington DC the lines have been drawn and the parties are gearing up for what looks to be a mighty contest as the Democrats prepare to try to impeach President Donald Trump. They won a testy contest in the House of Representatives on Thursday winning a motion to proceed by only 232 to 196.

Two Democratic congressmen voted against, understandably, as they are from Republican-leaning districts.

The Democrats are keen to have the impeachment process over before Christmas to prevent it spilling over into early next year when the selection process for a presidential candidate to challenge Trump.

This motion sets the procedures for public hearings and largely negates the Republicans’ argument that so far the hearings, which have produced some damning evidence on how the president coupled the supply of military aid to Ukraine (mainly Javelin anti-tank missiles) with a requirement that Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky announce investigations into  Biden, his son and other Democrats.

Should the actual motion to impeach win in the lower House, the question moves to the Senate. A trial heard before the Chief Justice could proceed. Continue reading “Impeachment hearings to be brought into a public arena but polls show Trump retains strong support”

Impeaching a president is one thing – getting rid of him is another

So, the impeachment process in the US has commenced against President Donald Trump.  In purely local interests – and forgiving the great constitutional issues involved –what does this mean for NZ and the prospects of a free trade agreement?.

Probably little.

Why? Because the great organs of the US state grind on. The president remains in the White House, all Cabinet officials remain in office, NZ’s trade guru Vangelis Vitalis is on his way.

At Monday’s meeting  with Trump in New York, PM Jacinda Adern reaffirmed NZ’s strong preference for an FTA and this was not denied by President Trump, nor by the Vice President, Mike Pence, a political pal of Foreign Minister Winston Peters in the presence of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Continue reading “Impeaching a president is one thing – getting rid of him is another”