As the United States battles two major pandemics, the coronavirus and systematic racism, the citizens of America are condemning president Trump for his complacency in both of these health crises that are killing thousands of Americans in very different ways.
A judge ruled yesterday, May 5th, that the New York state Democratic presidential primary election will take place as planned next month. Previously, New York cancelled their Democratic primary after Bernie Sanders indefinitely suspended his campaign amid the coronavirus pandemic, leaving Joe Biden as the sole Democratic nominee.
Democrats on the state board of elections voted last week to remove all presidential candidates who have previously suspended their campaigns from the ballot, leaving only Vice President Biden on the ticket. Before the primaries were initially cancelled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had issued an executive order that moved the election date from April 28th to June 23rd.
United States District Judge Analisa Torres was the individual who granted the preliminary injunction to put the primary election back on in June. The injunction was also done in response to a lawsuit from former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
“I’m glad that a federal judge agreed that depriving millions of New Yorkers of the right to vote was wrong. I hope that the New York Board of Elections takes from this ruling a newfound appreciation of their role in safeguarding our democracy,” Yang said in a statement.
With this ruling, the New York Board of Elections must also reinstate all Democratic primary candidates who were still qualified to run in the election as of April 26th 2020, in order for the primary to still be held in June. This would mean the ballot would list Biden, Sanders, and Yang as candidate options.
Torres claimed in her ruling that Yang and the rest of the democratic delegates have made a “clear and substantial showing of likelihood of success on the merits of their claim.” That “claim” being Yang’s initial lawsuit against the NY Board of Elections in which he accused the Democrats on the board of violating every New Yorker’s constitutional right to a primary election.
“Good for Torres for having restored basic democracy in New York. People in every state should have the right to express their preference in the 2020 Democratic primary. We have confidence that New York can hold elections in June in a safe manner that preserves New Yorkers’ right to vote,” Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir said.
In April New York became the first state in the US to cancel a presidential primary election over coronavirus fears. Bernie Sanders suspending his presidential campaign acted as the “final nail in the coffin,” so to speak, for the Democratic primary in general in the US, however, Americans and New Yorkers alike agree that every citizen should still have the right to vote in a safe and rapid matter that will also protect them from potential Covid-19 exposure.
“The [initial] decision came after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign earlier that month, which basically rendered the primary moot. At a time when the goal is to avoid unnecessary social contact, our conclusion was that there was no purpose in holding a beauty contest primary that would marginally increase the risk to both voters and poll workers,” New York State Board of Elections co-chair Douglas Kellner said.
Now, the Board understands the outrage that came from Sanders campaign offices/the American people in general. Many states have moved to postpone their primaries due to the pandemic, and as of right now, information on how the general election for November 2020 will work is just as unclear as everything else occuring in the world.
According to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has dramatically improved his standing in the 2020 Democratic primary race, as for the first time in CNN’s history of polling this race he has eclipsed Joe Biden. According to the poll, 27% of registered Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents support Sanders, whereas 24% prefer Biden. Though Sanders’ support is impressive, particularly considering his radically progressive policy agenda, the difference between Sanders and Biden is within the margin of error, meaning that this poll shows no clear frontrunner at the moment. That being said, Sanders and Biden are clearly in the lead compared to the other candidates; Warren ranked in 3rd place at 14% whereas Buttigieg is at 11%, with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg receiving 5% support. Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar each received 4% support among those included in the poll.
It’s important to note that while Sanders has made significant progress in the race so far, it’s still early in the primary season, as the first votes have not yet been cast. While Biden has consistently remained among the most popular choices for the Democratic candidate, last year he was briefly overtaken by Elizabeth Warren, though Warren has since fallen behind in the polls amid criticism of her Medicare-for-All plan and a personal dispute with Sanders over whether he told her a woman could not be elected president in a meeting between the two in 2018.
As the primary process continues, the Democratic candidates have intensified their criticisms of one another; a recent Sanders ad questions Biden’s record on protecting Social Security, and Biden rebuked these claims with an attack ad of his own, accusing the Sanders campaign of lying about his record. These attacks have led Democrats to fear that the political damage that the candidates are inflicting on one another will hurt whoever ends up as the Democratic nominee, and these fears are magnified by the intense focus Democrats have on defeating Donald Trump in 2020.
One of the key factors that influences voter turnout is enthusiasm, and fortunately for Sanders, 38% of Democratic voters say they would be enthusiastic about voting for Sanders in the general election if he wins the nomination, even though enthusiasm towards all of the other candidates has decreased in recent months. Sanders is also seen as the candidate who most often agrees with voters on the issues they consider to be the most important, and he also is considered to be the candidate who best understands the issues facing the American voter.
The current election cycle is a unique one in American history, as it represents an opportunity for Democrats to radically shift the direction of the country
However, at the forefront of most voters’ minds is the issue of electability, as Democrats across the board are most interested in nominating the candidate who stands the best chance of defeating Donald Trump in the general election. According to the poll, Joe Biden is still considered to be the most electable candidate by a significant margin; 45% of Democrats say that Biden has the best chance of defeating Trump, whereas just 24% say the same of Sanders. That being said, Sanders has made progress in this field as well, as increasing numbers of Democrats feel that he can defeat Trump, and indeed Sanders consistently ranks more favorably than Trump by several percentage points among voters generally, as do several of the other Democratic candidates. Unfortunately for the Democrats, Republican voters report being more enthusiastic about voting in the general election than Democratic voters do, a likely result of political fatigue after Democrats witness headline after headline of what they consider to be profoundly negative news generated by the White House and Congress.
When it comes to the issue of which candidate has the best chance of uniting the Democratic party, though, Biden substantially outperforms Sanders; 41% of voters name Biden as having the best shot of uniting the party whereas just 16% say the same of Sanders. This is unsurprising considering Sanders’ record as an independent senator and a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist,” and considering his ambitious policy proposals, Sanders will have to get Democrats on his side one way or another in order to pass promised legislation such as Medicare-for-All, which is sure to be an uphill battle for him if he wins the presidency.
That being said, the current election cycle is a unique one in American history, as it represents an opportunity for Democrats to radically shift the direction of the country, as the party is likely to embrace a radical set of policies in order to energize voters to defeat Trump in November. At this stage in the process, no one can say with certainty what will happen several months from now; however, recent polls give renewed enthusiasm to Sanders supporters, many of whom are still bitter about how the Democratic primary unfolded in 2016 amid accusations that the DNC was biased towards Hillary Clinton.
Just days before the first votes are due to be cast in Iowa, the New York Times has announced that, in an unusual move, the editorial board has decided to endorse two candidates for the Democratic nominee. The two candidates, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, are the only two women candidates remaining in the race, and while their policy platforms differ in a number of ways, the editorial board has come to the conclusion that both candidates are equally qualified to beat Donald Trump in November and serve in the office of the presidency for the next four to eight years.
The editorial board arrived at their conclusion by holding interviews with each of the major candidates vying to become the Democratic nominee, and found that although the public perceives the contest as being split between progressives and moderates, in reality the different candidates’ views on fundamental issues are strikingly similar. All of the top candidates, for instance, want to expand access to health care far beyond what the government has provided in the past, and each candidate has a vision for the federal government that differs sharply from the way it is run today. Indeed, as the Republican party increasingly slides towards authoritarianism in deference to Trump, the Democratic party as a whole has moved to the left, as positions that were once considered radical like Medicare-for-All have become mainstream.
While the editorial board acknowledges that the issue at the forefront of most voters’ minds is the question of who is able to beat Mr. Trump, it also believes that no one really has the ability to foretell which candidate is most able to do so. Instead, the editorial board focused on which candidates would be most effective at repairing the Republic and embracing new ideas, and the most competent candidates in these two regards were considered to be Klobuchar and Warren. Though both Sanders and Warren represent the progressive wing of the party, the editorial board considers Sanders’ age and health to be a major concern, and considers his approach to his policies to be too ideologically rigid. While the editorial board recognizes Sanders’ contribution of progressive ideas to the party, it feels that Warren has a better understanding of the fundamental issues that plague the country and how best to approach them.
The second endorsement, Amy Klobuchar, was picked for her experience and effectiveness as a politician. According to the Center for Effective Lawmaking, Klobuchar is the most productive senator in the Democratic field when it comes to bills passed with bipartisan support, and while she is billed as a moderate by most voters, the editorial board feels that Amy Klobuchar might have the best chance of enacting a progressive policy agenda as president. Despite being labelled a moderate by the media, Klobuchar embraces a number of progressive policies, including transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. While the editorial board was concerned about reports of how Klobuchar treats her staff, it nonetheless considers Klobuchar to be the most competent and effective “moderate” candidate in the field.
As the first votes in the 2020 Democratic nomination process have not yet been cast, it’s impossible to predict with certainty who will emerge as the democratic nominee to face Trump in the general election, particularly considering the historically large field of candidates running for president this year. That being said, pollsters have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the primary season to measure voters’ preferences towards each of the candidates, generating a tremendous amount of data for analysts at organizations like FiveThirtyEight to sift through. Accordingly, FiveThirtyEight just published the first iteration of its forecast simulating the outcome of the primary season, which claims that Biden has a 2 in 5 chance of winning the nomination and Sanders has a 1 in 5 chance of winning, whereas Warren has a 1 in 8 chance and Buttigieg has a 1 in 10 chance, with all other candidates having just a 1 in 40 chance of winning the nomination.
The results of the study, which are based on computer simulations of the primary season that are run thousands of times based on data collected from polling organizations and models generated from an analysis of previous presidential nominations, were published in an interactive format that allows users to view the calculated probability of victory for each candidate in each state. Though FiveThirtyEight has analyzed political polls for more than ten years, this year marks the first time the ABC News-owned organization has published a “complete back-to-front model of the presidential primaries.” Despite the number of complexities involved, such as the difficult-to-predict impact of the winner of one state primary or caucus on future ones, the organization feels confident enough in the accuracy of its simulations to publish its findings even at this early stage in the process. One of the factors that led to the organization’s confidence this year is the amount of data collected on the primary processes of 2008 and 2016, which helps analysts understand the nuances of how presidential primaries tend to play out. The outcome of the Iowa caucuses, for instance, has historically had a tremendous impact on voters in the other 49 states.
The race is still very much up in the air
That being said, FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver stresses that their model is a “forecast, … not an estimation of what would happen in an election held today” and that the forecast is “probabilistic” with a high degree of uncertainty. As more political events shape voters’ opinions on the candidates, more polls are conducted, and the first states begin to hold primaries and caucuses, the organization will continue to refine their predictions and update their forecast. Silver also stresses that FiveThirtyEight’s predictions should be taken literally, meaning that although Biden is currently calculated to have the best chance of any of the candidates of winning the nomination, the probability of his victory is only 40%, making it actually more likely than not that one of the other candidates will win instead.
Although Trump’s surprise victory in 2016 led many observers to feel as though poll data is not to be trusted, as organizations like the New York Times had predicted with 85% certainty on the eve of the election that Clinton would win, FiveThirtyEight has a better track record than most organizations when it comes to the accuracy of its predictions. In 2016, FiveThirtyEight was far more pessimistic than most news outlets about the likelihood of a Clinton victory, giving the former First Lady a two-in-three chance of winning. As Nate Silver once commented, “one-in-three chances happen all the time;” when viewed from this perspective, it’s no surprise that Trump won in 2016, provided one has a realistic understanding of how to interpret the results of statistical models of probability. Accordingly, while Joe Biden has consistently led opinion polls since announcing his candidacy last year and has by far the highest probability of any candidate of winning the race for Democratic nominee, the race is still very much up in the air, as three other candidates stand a decent chance of victory as well.
While many know of Emily Ratajkowski for her tremendous Instagram following, the Polish-American supermodel also works as a political activist, using her platform to advocate for liberal causes. During the previous Democratic presidential nomination, she endorsed Bernie Sanders due to his progressive policies like environmental justice and Medicare-for-All, so it’s no surprise that she has chosen the Vermont senator again as the ideal candidate in the fight against Trump at the ballot box this November. Ratajkowski first declared her endorsement during a podcast hosted by popular liberal filmmaker Michael Moore, where the two also discussed issues relating to women’s rights and the need for a radical candidate who will energize voters and convince them to head to the polls. And in a video produced in coordination with the Sanders campaign, Ratajkowski summarized the reasons for her support of the democratic socialist candidate, praising him for his long history of supporting progressive causes and the authenticity of his character.
Given the high-profile nature of Ratajkowski’s celebrity status, her endorsement is likely to have a meaningful positive impact on the Sanders campaign, with the first votes being cast in Iowa less than a month away. Ratajkowski told Moore during her appearance on his podcast that she wanted to do as much as she possibly could to support Sanders, meaning it’s likely that the supermodel will make appearances at campaign rallies as the election season continues. As justification for supporting a candidate who is an older, white man over a woman candidate or a candidate of color, Ratajkowski commented that now is a time for action, not symbolism, and opined that a populist, anti-establishment candidate like Sanders has a better chance of defeating Trump in the general election than a moderate like Joe Biden, who is often regarded as a safer choice at a time when the primary issue on Democratic voters’ minds is the need to prevent the incumbent candidate’s re-election.
Ratajkowski joins a growing field of high-profile endorsements, including Michael Moore and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both of whom appeared at a campaign event to offer their support shortly following the senator’s heart attack late last year. Recently, Sanders announced an impressive fundraising haul of $34.5 million for the fourth quarter of 2019, and he currently leads the polls in some of the early-voting states, worrying members of the party establishment who fear that such a radical candidate would interfere with establishment goals or cost the Democratic party the presidency. That being said, Sanders enjoys particular popularity among significant demographics who are most likely to experience frustration with their experience of politics as usual, most notably young voters and non-white voters, two major coalitions that may be inclined to sit out during elections after being disillusioned by the political process. As such, turnout among these key demographics may be the determining factor in Sanders’ ability to clinch the nomination and, ultimately, the presidency.
In an era of widespread political disinformation deployed by bad actors to influence democracies, Facebook has faced criticism for its policy of allowing advertisers to use its platform to spread false messages, particularly about politics. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has argued that such a policy is necessary to protect free speech, and that he doesn’t see Facebook’s role as one of censoring political messages. Certainly, the question of how to handle the spread of disinformation on social media networks is a tricky one, particularly during a time when the president’s reelection campaign overtly makes false claims in social media ads, most notably on Facebook, to influence the voting public.
Rival social network Twitter has decided to address the problem by banning political ads on Twitter altogether, neatly sidestepping the issue by refusing to participate in it in any capacity. But even in the face of ongoing, intense criticism and action taken on other platforms, Zuckerberg has remained steadfast in his opinion, positioning Facebook as a platform that promotes free speech instead of one that polices the political views of its users. However, amid the intensity of the criticism directed at the social networking giant, Facebook has recently announced it would ban “deepfakes” on the site, an apparent concession to those who are worried about social media’s role in facilitating the spread of false information.
So-called “deepfakes” are the result of new technology, made possible by advances in machine learning using neural networks, that can appear to show evidence of a person saying or doing something that they did not in fact say or do by manipulating video to superimpose an image of one person’s face onto another person’s head with near-perfect accuracy. Such videos can be difficult or impossible to detect, even by experts, and as the technology advances deepfakes become even more convincing and easy to make.
While these moves are certainly steps in the right direction, they are likely not enough to stop the spread of fake news
Researchers and political observers around the world have understandably voiced concerns about the potential impact of deepfakes on the spread of information, as the very existence of deepfakes causes one to call into question the legitimacy of videos depicting well-known political figures, which were once considered ironclad evidence of a person’s speech and conduct. To illustrate this point, director Jordan Peele created a deepfake that appears to depict President Obama delivering a warning about the spread of disinformation. Even more disturbingly, deepfakes have also been used to create pornographic videos appearing to depict various well-known celebrities, in violation of these celebrities’ rights to control how their images are used in public forums.
As the dangers that deepfakes pose to individuals and to society as a whole are clear, it’s no surprise that Facebook has taken the step of banning this type of video on its site. However, given the extent of the spread of misinformation online, this action alone is not nearly enough to ensure that bad actors cannot subvert democracies by spreading fake news. For one, deepfakes are difficult to detect, even using computer analysis; as such, Facebook launched the Deep Fake Detection Challenge in an attempt to improve the technology that can determine whether a video has been digitally manipulated. And while Facebook continues to allow the spread of falsehoods in the form of political advertisements, the company has also partnered with independent fact-checkers with the aim of informing users when they are encountering false information.
While these moves are certainly steps in the right direction, they are likely not enough to stop the spread of fake news, especially given the level of sophistication exhibited by disinformation campaigns around the world, most notably Russia’s interference in the 2016 American presidential election and its likely interference in the upcoming election. While Facebook and other social media giants have learned some lessons from the election interference of the last several years, the rapid pace of technological advancement ensures that the fight against disinformation will not end anytime soon.
A poll conducted by Ipsos and FiveThirtyEight, an organization that aggregates and analyzes opinion poll data, has found that 52% of Americans believe enough evidence exists with respect to Trump’s conduct with Ukraine and his refusal to cooperate with Congress to warrant his removal from office. An aggregate of polls conducted to determine whether Americans support impeaching Trump has found that roughly half of Americans have supported the impeachment inquiry since Pelosi announced it, whereas the other half oppose impeachment. Though the impeachment inquiry lasted several weeks and produced devastating evidence directly implicating the president in withholding aid money to Ukraine in exchange for campaign assistance, these revelations have not changed Americans’ minds about impeachment, as poll results have remained remarkably consistent throughout the process. However, this most recent poll suggests that some Americans are slowly beginning to realize the extent of the president’s misconduct, though Trump’s remarkably steady approval rating indicates that it is unlikely that an overwhelming majority of Americans will ever support removing the president while he remains in office.
Although a majority of Americans (57%) believe Trump engaged in impeachable conduct, just 47% of Americans favor removing him from office, apparently believing that the question of whether Trump should remain the president should be determined by American voters this November. This means that roughly 15 percent of Americans believe that Trump committed impeachable conduct that warrants his removal from office but do not support removing the president before the election. Predictably, public opinion is split along party lines; 82% of Democrats support removing Trump from office, whereas only 9.7% of Republicans hold the same opinion.
One thing that both Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on, however, is that the upcoming Senate trial should feature witnesses who were not present during the phase of the process controlled by the House in order to expand on the evidence unearthed over the past few months. 57% of Americans want to see a Senate trial with new witnesses, whereas 39% believe the focus should be kept on the evidence presented by the House. That being said, Democrats and Republicans largely disagree on who should be called as witnesses—Democrats think that officials like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, who have direct knowledge of the conduct for which the president was impeached, should participate in the trial, whereas Republicans want senators to question people like Hunter Biden, who is the subject of Trump’s allegation of his opponent’s political corruption.
When it comes to how lawmakers are handling the impeachment process, which is currently in a stalemate as Nancy Pelosi continues to withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate as leverage to negotiate the terms of the trial, Americans are almost evenly split on their approval of this tactic as well. Pelosi’s tactic may end up backfiring on Democrats, depending on how long she continues to withhold the articles, as withholding them for too long could give credibility to allegations that the impeachment process was motivated by political concerns instead of by constitutional obligation as the Democrats claim.
The poll also found that Americans are becoming increasingly unlikely to change their mind on the question of impeachment as time goes on. In mid-November, roughly 75% of respondents who believed Trump’s conduct was impeachable felt “absolutely” or “pretty” sure that they were right, whereas now 81 percent of respondents profess this degree of certainty. However, when it comes to Americans who think Trump’s conduct was not impeachable, this degree of certainty has not seen a similar increase, as 71% of this group reported being “absolutely” or “pretty” certain of their view in mid-November and 72% of this group reported being this certain in this latest poll.
Though the holiday season is officially over, the parameters of the Senate trial remain unclear, as lawmakers have made little progress in their negotiations over the rules of the trial. As such, at this unprecedented moment in history, it’s difficult to predict what, if any, effect the trial will have on public opinion, though trends over the past several years suggest any change will be minimal.
While the allegations at the core of the current presidential impeachment effort are fairly straightforward, the larger story of the president’s alleged misconduct can become extraordinarily complicated, as Republicans are actively spreading Russian disinformation to defend the president, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction. Additionally, quite a large number of people are involved in this story, each with unique and often mysterious worldviews and motives. While you may know the basic allegation that Donald Trump asked the president of Ukraine for assistance in his personal political campaign in exchange for desperately-needed military assistance, thereby trying to cheat in his next election, you may have not heard about, or have forgotten, the numerous associates of Donald Trump who are linked to Russia and Ukraine, some of whom are currently serving time in jail.
Trump’s connections with Russia and Ukraine predate matters directly related to impeachment. Trump has a substantial personal financial investment in Russia, a corrupt dictatorship, as he has pursued building a Trump property in Moscow for decades. Infamously, Trump publicly implored Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email account when he was the nominee and she was his opponent, but was not found to have successfully colluded with the Russian government to promote his 2016 campaign. The day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified that his team had not found evidence of successful collusion with Russia, President Trump called Ukraine’s President Zelensky for help in his domestic political campaign, apparently having believed he had gotten away with it the first time and thus could do so again without facing consequences. To this day, Trump contends that he did nothing wrong and that his call was “perfect,” and while he often lies, he likely believes this to be true, as he is prone to subscribing to conspiracy theories that are disproven but nonetheless help him politically.
Trump’s connections with Ukraine are related to his connections with Russia. Paul Manafort, the president’s campaign chairman who is now a convicted felon, previously helped in the campaign of Ukraine’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych was a corrupt politician who was preferred by Russia and acted to strengthen Ukraine’s ties with Russia. He was removed from office by the Ukrainian parliament, who also issued a warrant for his arrest for “mass killing of civilians.” Yanukovych now lives in exile in Russia and was succeeded by oligarch Petro Poroshenko, whose administration was also involved in widespread corruption. Poroshenko’s reelection efforts were defeated by the election of current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who won a landslide victory after campaigning on a platform of rooting out corruption.
When Poroshenko was elected president, Joe Biden was the Vice President and had urged President Obama to provide Ukraine with military assistance after that country was invaded by Russia, which he declined to do. So Biden called Poroshenko and urged the newly-elected President to reform his country’s corruption-laden political system, explaining that corruption makes it difficult for other countries to work with them, particularly in their fight against Russia. At around the same time, Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, joined the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, in large part not because of the younger Biden’s experience or skills but because of the value of his last name.
Joe Biden, alongside most of the international community, worked to oust Ukraine’s corrupt prosecutor general who was accused of taking bribes from various companies, including Burisma, to protect them from investigation. Ultimately, this prosecutor was fired as a result of the allegations, resulting in the hiring of a prosecutor who would have been more likely to investigate Burisma. Joe Biden contends that he has not discussed Burisma with his son, and there’s no evidence to suggest that he even took Burisma into consideration when deciding to oppose the corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor. Notably, this prosecutor’s removal actually increased the chances that Burisma would be investigated, as the prosecutor was replaced by one who was less likely to accept bribes from companies like Burisma. The fact that Hunter Biden worked for Burisma while his father was the Vice President shows poor judgment and a willingness to take advantage of nepotism, but does not constitute evidence of a crime.
While based on partial truths, Trump’s narrative depends on several facts arguably invented by Moscow
The president’s narrative, then, depends on material falsehoods and happens to be identical to a Russian disinformation campaign, as Russia expert and impeachment witness Fiona Hill recently testified. Republicans and the president falsely allege that it was Ukraine, not Russia, who interfered in the 2016 American presidential election, and that Biden’s actions in Ukraine were meant to protect his son from investigation into corruption. These claims are refuted by material evidence, but have nonetheless convinced a significant portion of the American electorate, thanks to Trump and the network of media that supports him.
While based on partial truths, Trump’s narrative depends on several facts arguably invented by Moscow in an attempt to even further divide the American electorate, as such behavior is consistent with Russia’s foreign policy, particularly in the aftermath of their successful attempt to elect a president they believed would harm the United States. Putin, a former KGB spy, often uses disinformation against his political opponents to harm them, both domestically and abroad. Throughout his presidency, Trump has repeatedly and consistently praised Russian President Putin, despite his corruption and human rights abuses, and has privately met with Putin several times. To this day, we don’t know exactly what the two presidents discussed in these closed-door meetings, as the only other people in the room were translators.
In addition to Manafort, Putin, and Zelensky, Trump has an unusually large number of connections to people in Eastern Europe for a sitting American president. Rick Gates, for instance, worked in a high level position during the 2016 Trump campaign and briefly worked for the Trump administration before pleading guilty to lying to the FBI and conspiring against the United States by concealing millions of dollars he earned representing pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Yesterday, he was sentenced to 45 days in jail and three years’ probation for this offense. Other Trump associates with connections to Russia who are facing criminal penalties include his former personal lawyer, Micheal Cohen, self-professed “dirty trickster” Roger Stone, former national security advisor Michael Flynn, and former foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos. Furthermore, The Moscow Project, which documents the connections between Trump and Russia, has identified 272 contacts between Trump and Russia-linked operatives.
It’s no coincidence, I believe, that Trump’s ongoing abuse of power involves extorting Ukraine, an enemy of Russia and an ally of the United States
While the Mueller Report did not explicitly find that Trump successfully colluded with Russia, it did find that Trump obstructed justice by refusing to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, as he is accused of doing to Congress in the present impeachment. It’s no coincidence, I believe, that Trump’s ongoing abuse of power involves extorting Ukraine, an enemy of Russia and an ally of the United States, to the benefit of both Trump personally and Russia. In my view, Trump felt emboldened by the lack of consequences for his request for election interference from Russia, and so did so again with Ukraine, perhaps at Russia’s direction, this time bolstered by a quid pro quo. Thankfully, this second attempt has not so far been as successful, as Trump released the withheld military aid to Ukraine after he was caught and has faced accountability in the form of impeachment proceedings, which have convinced roughly half of the American electorate of the president’s substantial wrongdoing. No one can predict how the results of impeachment will affect the outcome of the next election, but one thing is clear: the theories that Trump was looking forward to impeachment as it would help him politically have been debunked, as the president is clearly troubled, as evidenced by his hundreds of tweets on the subject and his angry letter to Nancy Pelosi, by the constitutional remedy currently being exercised.
While President Trump has not yet officially been impeached, that historic outcome has become even more likely as the House of Representatives prepares for a full vote on both of the articles that have been presented by the House Judiciary Committee. The full votes on both articles will be held sometime next week, probably Wednesday, and are likely to pass along party lines. Republican members of Congress have shown absolutely no cracks in their resistance to impeachment, as every Republican representative has voted against the process since it began several weeks ago and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he expects no Republican senators to vote to remove President Trump from office.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Jerry Nadler, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff presented the Articles of Impeachment during a press conference on Tuesday, with formal charges including Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. Democrats opted to keep the focus of impeachment narrow in order to build the strongest possible case in a short period of time; although the Mueller Report outlined several instances of potential obstruction of justice, which has been presented as an article in previous impeachments, the articles that the House Panel just approved involved only the misconduct that become evident in connection to a whistleblower complaint from a few months ago. Considering the President’s misconduct to be a national security emergency, Democrats are undergoing the impeachment process as quickly as they possibly can, choosing not to wait for the courts to decide whether the White House is legally obligated to produce documents and witnesses in accordance with numerous congressional subpoenas.
While the outcome in the Democrat-led House of Representatives has been highly predictable throughout the impeachment process, the upcoming trial in the Senate, which is led by Republican Mitch McConnell, is less clear. However, McConnell has shed some light on what the Senate trial will look like during a recent interview with Fox News, during which the Senate Majority Leader indicated that the Senate would follow the White House’s lead in defining the parameters of the trial.
It’s long been predicted that, regardless of how long the Senate trial goes on and how it is defined, Republicans would vote along party lines to protect the President. Now, McConnell has reaffirmed the congressional body’s fealty to the president, as he has taken the historically unprecedented step of allowing the defendant of a high-stakes trial to define the terms of the trial that will determine whether he is found guilty of committing high crimes and misdemeanors. McConnell said that there is ‘zero chance’ Trump is removed by impeachment, and given the Republicans’ unyielding loyalty to the current Commander in Chief, there is little reason to doubt him.
While President Trump will probably not be removed from office after the Senate trial, impeachment is nonetheless likely to have a lasting political impact, as the general election that will determine the next President of the United States will be held in less than a year. Though one can make a fairly confident prediction that Trump will remain the President through 2020, virtually nobody can speak with certainty at this point about the likelihood of his winning reelection next year. Both Democrats and Republicans have said that they hope impeachment will have a positive effect on their political power; Democrats argue that the public process of impeachment helps to inform the electorate about the President’s many abuses of power and thus of the urgency of removing him from office, whereas Republicans see the outcome of impeachment as a victory for the President, who is sure to portray his acquittal in the Senate as a vindication of his position that Article II of the Constitution, which defines the parameters of the executive branch of the federal government, gives him the power to do whatever he wants.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway of the likely outcome of impeachment will be that Trump’s claim to absolute executive power, unburdened by the Constitution’s centuries-old system of checks and balances, will be correct. At this moment in history, as Democrats have taken pains to point out time and time again, impeachment and the upcoming general election are the only two remaining constitutional checks preventing the President from consolidating his power and transforming the country’s government into a monarchy or dictatorship.
If Trump is acquitted by the Senate, as he probably will be, Congress will establish a precedent that it is OK for the President to cheat in American elections by coordinating with foreign powers to interfere in the democratic process around which the country’s entire government is built. Though the upcoming presidential election is likely to be compromised as a result of efforts by the President and Republicans to undermine democracy, it will determine whether or not the United States will remain a republic or descend into an authoritarian state, as the president’s last three years of attacks against the institutions of democratic governance have been remarkably effective and are certain to continue to their completion if he is given another term in office.
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