Posts

Impeachment 2

Trump’s Impeachment Looks at President Trump’s View on Friendship

Next week will see President Donald Trump go on trial to defend the accusation that he offered $400 million in military aid to the Ukraine if they gave him information he could use on his political enemies.

And although it is only Trump’s “deal” with the Ukraine that is on trial, it seems that a new story regarding his world view is appearing in the media, making America’s strong relationships with its allies seemingly being based on how much money he can get from them, such as larger subsidies for US troops based in locations including South Korea.

Trump had also bragged about the fact that Saudi Arabia had placed $1 billion into a US bank account in an attempt to gain a detachment of US troops – a claim that has been declared untrue.

And while it seems that Trump is only out to get as much money as he can from his new found “friends,” he is also restricting them too. He has threatened European allies with 25% auto tariffs if they did not enforce a dispute mechanism against Iran with regards to the nuclear deal. He also threatened to take action against Iraq that would “make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame” if the country evicted US troops from the country, as is their sovereign right.

This came alongside the news that Baghdad had been warned by the US that its central bank’s account in New York could be frozen, which was seen as a clear attack to destroy their economy.

Embed from Getty Images

It is actions like these that make many think that if this is the way America treats its friends, they may end up lonely soon. It has also been noted that by having a foreign policy purely designed to increase the country’s wealth goes against the United States’ mission to make the world safer for democracy.

As is always the case, Trump has his supporters who cannot see anything wrong with what he is doing. Trump’s announcement that the world has been “ripping off” America has been seen by many as exaggerations, however many others agree with him saying that creating deals with other countries is the way America has always worked.

Several text messages have been released by the House Intelligence Committee and have thrown a new name into the Ukraine issue. Robert F. Hyde – Connecticut’s congressional candidate – had sent texts where he seemed infuriated with then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Texting Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, Hyde said, “she had visitors.” Before adding “Hey broski tell me what we are doing what’s the next step.”

In retaliation to the messages being released Hyde’s Twitter account for his election campaign appeared to renounce Parnas as “some dweeb we were playing with” while Adam Schiff, House Intel leader was dismissed as a “desperate turd.”

Yet despite Trump’s dubious ways of keeping his friends happy he seems keen to be rebuilding his relationship with China.

Following on from the recent trade war with China, which saw many of China’s technology giants including Huawei being banned in the country as well as TikTok being banned from all US military, it seems that the two countries have been working towards a deal that should keep both countries happy.

Embed from Getty Images

Trump’s trade deal with China was reported during the week and if Trump’s assurances that President Xi was watching on TV in Beijing is to be believed, the Chinese President would have been shocked with what he heard in the 40 minute tirade Trump delivered to Chinese leaders, CEOs, cabinet members and lawmakers as well as the world’s media. Trump was keen to announce that the impeachment is a “hoax,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer “tosses and turns” and is unable to get a good night’s sleep as well as other facts that many were not expecting to hear.

He continued to thank President Xi who is “a very, very good friend of mine” before explaining that “we’re representing different countries. He’s representing China, I’m representing the US, but we’ve developed an incredible relationship.”

Following on from Trump’s fallout with Iran many countries in the Gulf and Europe fear retaliation. The President’s unpredictable behavior alongside his habit of off-the-cuff speeches has left many governments concerned that although the American President will react when American lives are at stake, he may not be so supportive if regional interests are under attack or even merely threatened.

A great example is Trump’s reluctance to react when Iran allegedly attacked vital Saudi oil facilities last year. Although America has declared that one of its policy priorities is to protect Saudi Arabia there clearly are conditions. Ilan Goldenberg from the Center for a New American Security is an expert on Middle East issues and said there are two sides to these “battles.”

“On the one hand, they are happy that Trump is willing to sanction and pressure and take Iran down a notch.” However it appears that “they are nervous that he is unsteady and goes too far… No one really knows what Donald Trump will do”

Whatever Trump does decide to do, it is unclear whether being his friend is beneficial to you or not.

Impeachment

Lawyer Reviews Democrats’ Arguments in Impeachment Trial

Devin J. Stone is a practicing lawyer whose YouTube channel looks at various elements in popular culture from the perspective of the law. In his latest video, he examined the arguments that have been presented in the trial so far, which includes those expressed by impeachment managers from the House of Representatives, led by Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff, that the president abused his office by soliciting campaign interference from Ukraine and obstructed Congress by trying to cover up their investigation into his alleged wrongdoing. In the video, Stone accuses the Republicans of arguing contradictory points; that it’s simultaneously too late and too early to call witnesses in the trial, and also that the Democrats should wait for the courts to decide whether White House officials are allowed to ignore congressional subpoenas and that the courts have no right to decide this type of question.

Embed from Getty Images

Republicans voted along strict party lines to block 11 amendments proposed by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that would have ensured witnesses be called during the trial and additional subpoenas issued, but also complained that Democrats presented nothing new at the trial, as if they weren’t directly responsible for that being the case. Stone also commented on the marathon nature of the proceedings, as arguments were heard for hours on end and went long into the night, which is likely to fatigue both the senators trying the case and the American people, likely an intentional move on the Republicans’ part, as they were the party who set the rules for the impeachment trial and also the party most interested in preventing the facts about the case from becoming known among the general public.

Stone also observed the various ways the impeachment of Trump differs from the impeachments of past presidents, most notably how the investigation of Trump was by necessity conducted by Democrats instead of by an independent counsel, and that the investigation was not exhaustively concluded before the articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate. As Attorney General William Barr was unwilling to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Trump, Democrats had to do it themselves, raising separation-of-powers questions and potentially causing legal problems for the Democrats later on.

Embed from Getty Images

Additionally, Stone also discussed the theory floating around the Internet that Chief Justice John Roberts can intervene more heavily in the trial, forcing witnesses to be called and documents to be produced. As expected, however, Roberts intervened very little in the trial, with his only extemporaneous comment being an admonishment of the hostile tone of both the prosecution and the defense during the first day of the trial. Stone said that he expected Roberts to do more of the same, fading into the background as arguments were heard, as presiding justices in past impeachment trials have taken a similarly passive role and “both sides-ing” the issues.

Finally, Stone pointed out the ridiculousness of the fact that Trump, in Davos, commenting about how the fact that the administration withheld evidence from the trial gives him an advantage in the trial, seemingly bragging about his obstruction of congress, one of the offenses he was impeached for. Truly, we live in interesting times.

Impeachment Trial

Impeachment Trial Begins in Earnest as Senators Clash Over Rules

Although the president’s impeachment trial technically began last Thursday, when House impeachment managers delivered articles of impeachment to the Senate and senators swore an oath of impartiality, the actual substance of the trial did not begin until today at one o’clock, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer delivered opening statements and began debating the rules of the trial. McConnell’s resolution, released late last night, infuriated Democrats as they perceived the proposed rules to be tremendously unfair, as they only give the prosecution and the defense 24 hours to present their arguments over the course of 2 days, do not allow for the production of documents and witnesses, and call for the proceedings to run late into the night, at a time when Americans are likely not to watch the trial.

Embed from Getty Images

Despite these restrictions, McConnell argued that the trial would be fair, raising objections from TV pundits as well as Democratic politicians. In response, Schumer decried the rules, pointing out McConnell’s hypocrisy as he previously said that he wanted the rules of the trial to resemble the ones that governed the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial. Additionally, reporters are complaining about the strict rules that limit journalistic access to the proceedings; while reporters are allowed to sit in the Senate gallery and observe the trial, they are not allowed to bring any electronic devices, including cameras, into the room. Instead, the camera that will film the trial is controlled by the government, and will only record the person who is speaking at the moment. What’s more, reporters are not allowed to ask questions of the senators as they walk through the halls of the Senate, which is a time-honored tradition on Capitol Hill. As such, cable networks are limited in their capacity to broadcast the event, and journalists have expressed fears that such rules prevent reporters from doing the job of recording momentous political occasions for the historical record.

Though McConnell characterized his proposed rules as “fair,” they break with Senate tradition and precedent as they seem to be engineered to prevent the discovery of new information and to limit the American people’s exposure to evidence in the case against Trump. Unfortunately for Democrats, McConnell’s resolution is likely to pass, as Republican senators are known for falling in line under McConnell’s direction. A simple majority of 51 votes is required to pass trial resolutions in the Senate, and as there are 53 Republican US Senators, it’s likely that the resolution will pass with few, if any, amendments. While Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial, if he chooses to keep with precedent, he will do virtually nothing. In the Clinton trial, Chief Justice Rehnquist made almost no contributions to the trial, later commenting that he did very little and did it very well. However, the situation in the Clinton trial was very different, as senators agreed in a 100-0 vote on the rules that would govern the trial.

Embed from Getty Images

American public sentiment does not match the proposed rules in the trial. According to a poll conducted by the Washington Post, more than 70% of Americans want the impeachment trial to include witnesses, and a slim majority, 51%, believe the evidence that has been unearthed in advance of the trial is sufficient to warrant the president’s removal from office. Republican senators have already signalled that they will vote to acquit the president, and virtually nobody believes that Trump will be removed from office via the impeachment process; however, many are disappointed by the restrictive and precedent-shattering nature of the rules that will likely govern the trial.

Notably, some of the senators who will act as jurors in the trial are also running for president, meaning that they are unable to campaign during the duration of the trial. These senators include two of the Democratic frontrunners, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Senators Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennett. According to the rules of the trial, senators are not allowed to speak at all throughout the duration of the proceedings, which may prove difficult for some. Additionally, senators will not be allowed to leave the room to use the bathroom or eat, which may prove difficult for some as the proceedings are expected to start at one PM and continue well past one o’clock in the morning.

Update: After this article was written, Republican senators changed their proposed rules to allow arguments to be held over three days, not two, reducing the logistical challenge for participants in the trial.

Ukraine Flags

Lev Parnas Implicates Giuliani, Pence, Barr, Nunes, and Trump in Ukraine Scandal

One of the central figures that has emerged in the Ukraine scandal that led to the president’s impeachment is Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. Parnas was indicted on federal charges several weeks ago and has since indicated that he is willing to cooperate with Congress’s investigation into allegations that Trump improperly pressured the president of Ukraine to announce an investigation of his political opponent, Joe Biden. On the eve of the House’s transmission of articles of impeachment to the Senate, Parnas sat down with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow to discuss documentary evidence that he had produced, including handwritten notes describing the scheme to coerce President Zelensky into announcing an investigation into the Bidens. 

Parnas’s interview signalled a break from the Trump administration, as he directly blamed several key White House figures, including the attorney general and the vice president, for their culpability in the scheme. While Parnas’s claims have not yet been fully vetted, they corroborate much of the testimony provided by other witnesses who participated in the House’s investigation. Most prominently, Parnas reiterated Gordon Sondland’s claim that “everyone was in the loop;” in other words, according to witnesses, all of the senior Trump administration officials were aware of the scheme as it was being carried out. 

Embed from Getty Images

In addition to providing circumstantial evidence corroborating the narrative that has emerged about the president’s involvement in the extortion plot, Parnas also provided previously-undisclosed evidence, further illuminating the roles of individuals connected with the two governments in attempting to carry out the plan. Parnas, by his own account, personally worked with Rudy Giuliani and others to oust former US ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was perceived as interfering in the administration’s scheme. 

Parnas also communicated with a new character in the Ukraine story, Robert Hyde, a controversial Republican congressional candidate who was not publicly known to be connected with the scandal before Parnas’s release of text messages and other documents. Hyde, by Parnas’s account, was “always drunk,” and as such Parnas often did not take his text messages seriously. Nevertheless, Hyde’s recently-revealed correspondence with Parnas drew significant media attention as his texts appeared to include personal threats against the ambassador, who seemed to be under surveillance by suspicious figures. Accordingly, and in an ironic twist, Ukraine has opened an investigation into the alleged surveillance of and threats against the American ambassador, potentially paving the way for the release of further evidence about the scandal down the road.

Embed from Getty Images

According to Parnas, essentially all of the highest-ranking members of the Trump administration as well as other government officials were aware of and at least complicit in the scheme, specifically including the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Vice President Pence, U.S. Representative Devin Nunes, and Attorney General William Barr. According to Parnas, Pence’s trip to Ukraine was canceled as a direct result of Zelensky’s delay in announcing an investigation into the Bidens, Nunes personally knew Parnas despite his claims that they didn’t know each other and was involved in efforts to produce documents denigrating Biden, and Barr must have known about everything that was happening but chose not to do anything about it, despite his position as the head of the Department of Justice. By Parnas’s account, Guiliani definitely had a direct role in carrying out the scheme whereas the other government officials participated in a supporting capacity. 

While Parnas’s claims are explosive, it’s important to keep in mind that not all of them have been fully vetted, and although Parnas produced documents that support some of his claims, some of what he said may be untrue. Though he pled “not guilty” to largely-unrelated federal charges issued last year, Parnas may be lying in order to diminish the appearance of his own culpability in committing illegal acts, or he may be lying for reasons unknown to the general public. While Parnas’s character and his testimony can reasonably be called into question, the voluminous documentation he made publicly available reveals a near-incontrovertible paper trail that strongly supports the general narrative of the administration’s involvement in a corrupt extortion scheme carried out to compromise an American election.

Washington DC

McConnell Says He Has Votes to Start Impeachment Trial Without Witnesses

Although Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi continues to withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate with no indication of when she plans to transfer them to the Republican-controlled half of Congress, the outlines of how the trial will proceed are beginning to take shape as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told Republican colleagues that he has the votes to begin the trial with no guarantee that witnesses will be called. Democrats believe that their case against the president is already ironclad, but that calling additional witnesses like former national security advisor John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney will further bolster their case and convince the American public of the president’s wrongdoing.

Republicans, on the other hand, have not presented a defense of the president’s conduct on the merits of the case but instead have tried to shift attention to the president’s political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter, alleging that the younger Biden’s conduct in Ukraine as a member of the board of an oil company constituted impropriety as his father was Vice President at the time. Accordingly, McConnell and Senate Republicans have announced their intention to work with the White House to ensure that the political damage the trial inflicts on Trump’s presidency is minimized. As such, Republicans are pushing for a rapid trial involving no witnesses and documents, consisting only of a presentation from the impeachment managers selected by the House and a defense from the president’s legal team followed by a vote which is all but certain to result in an acquittal, giving the president ammunition in his claim that he is being unfairly prosecuted by Democrats.

Embed from Getty Images

McConnell has argued that the Senate trial should begin in accordance with the rules that governed the 1999 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, which did not guarantee the presence of documents or witnesses but allowed senators to vote to call witnesses, who appeared virtually via videotape, as the trial proceeded. As Republicans hold a majority in the Senate and are fairly united in their opposition to the impeachment of Donald Trump, it is unlikely that they will decide during the trial to call witnesses like Bolton and Mulvaney who have firsthand knowledge of the scandal that led to the president’s impeachment, though they may push to call witnesses like Joe and Hunter Biden to testify about the unrelated, manufactured conspiracy theory that alleges without evidence misconduct on the part of Democrats.

If history is any indication, it’s only a matter of time before the full details of the administration’s conduct in connection with the scandal about Ukraine are revealed to all

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has accused McConnell and the Republicans of engaging in a cover-up by refusing to hear from Bolton and Mulvaney, among others, particularly given the magnitude of the evidence that has already been uncovered by House investigators despite the White House’s near-total obstruction, which has understandably raised additional questions about the administration’s response to the president’s request of Ukrainian President Zelensky for assistance in his domestic political campaign.

Embed from Getty Images

Though the likelihood of the presence of witnesses at the president’s trial decreases by the day, John Bolton has complicated the process by saying he’d be willing to testify if he receives a subpoena from the Senate, despite his prior refusal to comply with a House subpoena on the basis of his claim that that his conflicting orders from Congress and the executive branch constituted a critical separation-of-powers issue that had to be resolved by the courts.

Political observers believe that Bolton’s announcement is not sincere, but instead strategic, as the former White House national security advisor is well within his rights to discuss what he knows about the president’s conduct in a public forum, and in fact may do so in a book that he is planning to sell. That being said, pundits disagree over the end-game of Bolton’s political strategy, which remains unclear to everyone except him and his legal team. In any event, if history is any indication, it’s only a matter of time before the full details of the administration’s conduct in connection with the scandal about Ukraine are revealed to all, whether or not witnesses are called during the forthcoming trial. 

The White House

Majority of Americans Believe Evidence Supports Removing Trump from Office, Poll Finds

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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. 

Embed from Getty Images

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. 

Impeachment Trial

Should Senators Vote Secretly in Impeachment Trial?

To say there exists little historical precedent for presidential impeachment trials would be an understatement. Before Trump, only two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have ever faced an impeachment trial in the Senate, and the circumstances in each trial were very different. During Johnson’s trial, for instance, 41 witnesses testified, whereas Clinton’s trial only featured a handful of witnesses. If Senate Republicans get their way, however, Trump’s trial will feature neither witnesses nor subpoenas for documents, and it will end quickly with an acquittal. The Constitution gives Congress the freedom to determine its own rules for how to handle impeachment trials; this fact, combined with the relative lack of historical precedent, makes it difficult for anyone to predict how the trial will proceed. That being said, the trial will likely be shaped in large part by partisan allegiance to the president, as several Republican senators have already said they’re not interested in acting as impartial jurors and Mitch McConnell has predicted a “largely partisan outcome.” Because hyperpartisanship threatens jurors’ impartiality, and thus the integrity of the trial, some political strategists have suggested that the senators should cast their ballot in secret, protecting them from the political ramifications of their vote and encouraging an independent decision.

Embed from Getty Images

According to Juleanna Glover, a Republican strategist, it would be fairly easy for the Senate to ensure a secret ballot. Creating rules for the trial requires only a simple majority vote in the Senate; assuming Democrats vote in lockstep in favor of a secret ballot, only three Republicans would have to defect to reach the 51 votes necessary to effectuate the rule. Though they don’t publicly admit it for fear of the political repercussions, many Republican senators strongly oppose the president in private, according to various reports. In fact, former Republican senator Jeff Flake has said that he believes that there are at least 35 GOP senators who would vote to remove Trump if the votes were private; such a result would make Trump the first president in US history to be removed by the impeachment process. A secret ballot, however, would break with Senate tradition and expectations of transparency surrounding Senate proceedings, particularly in the extreme case of deciding whether to remove a sitting president from office. That being said, the atmosphere of hyperpartisanship, combined with an overall dislike of the president among lawmakers, may be enough to convince more than half of the Senate to institute such an unusual rule.

Few people predict that Trump will be removed from the White House before the 2020 election, but we live in an era in which unprecedented and unpredicted political events are borderline commonplace. 

While American politics has long been characterized by partisanship, the current political environment is arguably more partisan than ever before, with the vote in the House to impeach Trump passing almost entirely along party lines. The Senate is often considered to be a more impartial chamber than the House, but by most accounts it is still more partisan than it’s ever been. In Clinton’s trial, Republicans and Democrats collaborated to determine the rules, resulting in unanimous consent among all 100 senators—such an outcome is nearly inconceivable in today’s Senate. This very partisanship, though, is precisely what may motivate some senators to support a secret ballot. And while there exists a certain demand for transparency for actions taken by the Senate, grand jury proceedings, which the Senate trial will essentially function as, allow jurors to deliberate and vote in secret. 

Embed from Getty Images

Already, cracks are starting to form in the Republicans’ solidarity in their support of Trump; Republican senator Lisa Murkowski, for instance, has said that she is “disturbed” by McConnell’s pledge to coordinate with the White House in defining the rules of the trial, and Mitt Romney has characterized the president’s conduct for which he was impeached as “troubling in the extreme.” A secret ballot, though admittedly unlikely, may be enough for these cracks to cause Republican senators’ defense of Trump to collapse, leading to his potential removal from office. Few people predict that Trump will be removed from the White House before the 2020 election, but we live in an era in which unprecedented and unpredicted political events are borderline commonplace. 

Psychiatrist

Yale Psychiatrist Recommends Trump Undergo Involuntary Evaluation

The health of American presidents has long been a subject of interest for the American voter. The question of physical fitness for office is one that any candidate or president faces. Barack Obama, for instance, drew public scrutiny for his smoking habit, which he replaced with chewing Nicorette gum during his presidency, and Hillary Clinton faced skepticism about her fitness for office after appearing to collapse while campaigning for the 2016 election. This concern is heightened for older candidates; the 78-year-old Bernie Sanders, for instance, underwent perhaps the biggest challenge of his campaign thus far after suffering a heart attack, from which he has since recovered, and people were concerned for the health of 77-year-old Joe Biden after his eye appeared to fill with blood during a town hall event. But while the physical health of presidents tends to be heavily scrutinized by the media and the general public, the mental health of presidents and candidates is not discussed with the same frequency, even though presidents have tremendously stressful jobs which require emotional and cognitive stability to execute properly.

Embed from Getty Images

This absence in our public discourse is the result of a number of factors, not the least of which is a general overall societal taboo against discussing mental health issues. And while doctors often feel free to discuss the physical health of presidents and candidates, they are much less likely to question their mental fitness because of the Goldwater rule, a medical ethics rule that discourages psychiatrists from diagnosing public officials whom they have not personally examined. But in the unprecedented case of the presidency of Donald Trump, this norm is receding, as liberal pundits openly speculate that he suffers from narcissistic personality disorder or dementia, and some psychiatrists have made the rare decision to speak out. “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” for instance, argues that the president is dangerously mentally compromised.

Perhaps the most chilling part of Dr. Lee’s analysis is her argument that the president’s illness has generated a “shared psychosis” in American society.

Recently, Yale professor Dr. Bandy Lee, who edited this book, spoke with Salon about the state of the president’s mental health and what should be done about it. Dr. Lee, and the other experts who contributed to the book, feel that their duty to warn and protect the public supersedes the Goldwater rule, as they claim the combination of Trump’s pathologies and his political power present a serious threat to American society. This assessment is based on the president’s “signs of danger or emergency,” which Dr. Lee says include “verbal aggressiveness, history of sexual assault, incitement of violence at his rallies, attraction to violence and powerful weapons, [and] provocation of hostile nations.” In fact, while Dr. Lee praises Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment efforts, she argues Pelosi has not gone far enough and suggested she submit the president to an involuntary psychological evaluation. According to Dr. Lee, anyone has the right to call emergency services to report a coworker or family member who seems dangerous, after which point they may be professionally evaluated by a psychiatrist, potentially against their will. This law applies to everybody in all 50 states, including the president, and as Nancy Pelosi holds a high position in government, Dr. Lee argues that Pelosi has not only the right but the professional obligation to take this action against her coworker.

Such a move would be absolutely unprecedented in American history, and it’s very unlikely that Pelosi would take this route in her efforts to stymie the president. Nevertheless, Dr. Lee is beginning to believe that a mental health hold is becoming “inevitable,” as Pelosi’s decision to withhold sending articles of impeachment to the Senate is likely aggravating the president’s condition. A more realistic suggestion, endorsed by Dr. Lee as well as psychiatrists from around the country, is for the House of Representatives to hold a hearing involving psychiatrists to discuss the president’s mental fitness for office as part of its impeachment efforts. Given the narrow scope of the House’s impeachment inquiry, though, this too is unlikely.

Embed from Getty Images

Perhaps the most chilling part of Dr. Lee’s analysis is her argument that the president’s illness has generated a “shared psychosis” in American society. According to Dr. Lee, in a case of shared psychosis, “rather than the sick person getting better, the otherwise healthy people take on symptoms of the sick person, as if they had the sickness themselves.” Dr. Lee claims that Trump, who is not only paranoid and delusional but holds a position of extreme power, has a strong influence on his supporters, resulting in their adopting his pathological pattern of thinking. This level of psychological control is particularly appealing to authoritarian figures like dictators, whom Trump openly admires, as it allows them to consolidate their power and withstand threats from legal and political institutions. Several theories have been proposed to explain the president’s steady approval rating despite his being mired in endless scandals and controversy; the shared psychosis theory, endorsed by Dr. Lee and many other mental health professionals, suggests that the president’s base is unlikely to stop supporting Trump as long as he is president, as they unquestioningly accept his self-aggrandizing and warped messaging about himself and his opponents.

Capitol Building

US Senators Clash Over Impeachment Trial Procedures

Right after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi surprised pundits everywhere by making a strategic move no one saw coming: instead of immediately deciding upon impeachment managers to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, she decided to withhold the transmission of articles as leverage to coerce Senate Republicans to vote for what she considers to be a fair trial, which includes the calling of witnesses and the production of documents. Currently, Congress is in recess for the holidays, but negotiations surrounding the trial proceed nevertheless, even as lawmakers visit their families and constituents at their homes. 

Embed from Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called upon four Republicans to vote in favor of allowing documents and witnesses during the trial, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell starkly opposes. As the procedures for the trial will be determined by 51 votes, and Schumer already has all 47 Democratic Senators onboard, only four Republicans would have to defy McConnell to ensure a trial with witnesses and documents. Given the fact that the president himself has said that he’d like to see witnesses during the trial, and almost 2 in 3 Republicans also want top Trump aides to testify at the Senate trial, Schumer and the Democrats hope that pressure from constituents will be enough to convince the necessary four Republican senators to side with Democrats on this matter.

Given the dramatic and historic nature of this impeachment, people around the world are paying very close attention to the U.S. Congress during these critical next few weeks, as the rules of the trial will have to be determined soon for it to begin early next year as intended. Accordingly, U.S. senators, who ultimately will shortly decide whether the president is fit to remain in office for the rest of his first term, are using the media to amplify their message either for or against a fair trial as they try to build their cases. Today, The New York Times published an opinion piece written by Patrick Leahy, a Democratic senator from Vermont, who wrote of the historic implications of the Senate’s upcoming decision, as this impeachment trial, no matter how it ends up proceeding, will set precedent for future impeachments and forever define Congress’s role in checking the misconduct of a duly elected president.

The actions the Senate takes over the next several weeks will at least in part outline the shape of future impeachments and more clearly define the nature of Congress’s power to check the executive branch.

In the piece, Leahy argues that the outcome of the upcoming trial will determine the validity of the Senate itself, and more broadly the importance of truth in our government. Leahy, who has served as a juror on six impeachment trials of five judges and one president, notes that senators must swear an oath to carry out “impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws,” and fears that the Senate will shortly abandon the idea of taking this oath seriously. This is because several Republican senators, including Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, have already said they’ve made up their minds and that they don’t expect to act as fair jurors during the trial.

Embed from Getty Images

Impeachment trials are wholly separate from other types of trials, as they are conducted in the Senate, which briefly operates as a court of law during the proceedings. The Senate has the sole responsibility of setting the rules of its trial, and as the Senate is characterized by the presence of partisan politicians who are unflinchingly loyal to the president, Democrats fear that the trial will end up being fundamentally corrupt. Already, McConnell, who will act as one of 100 jurors, has pledged that “there will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this,” creating a rare case of a trial in which the jurors collaborate with the defendant to ensure the outcome favored by the defendant. Presidential impeachments are rare in American history, and as such there exists little precedent for how they should be carried out; as such, the actions the Senate takes over the next several weeks will at least in part outline the shape of future impeachments and more clearly define the nature of Congress’s power to check the executive branch.

American Flag

President Trump Heads to NATO Summit in London

Donald Trump has many issues to be considering at the moment including the US – China Trade War, his impeachment hearing and of course the presidential campaign, so when the chance came for him to be viewed positively on the world stage Trump should have shone.

Instead he was mocked while in London, United Kingdom, lambasted at home and left the NATO summit early, only to have to face his impeachment.

Like many of us, when the going gets tough we want to escape for a while, however, unlike the majority of people, Trump headed for Air Force One and headed to the U.K. and into the welcoming arms of NATO. However on this occasion, those arms were not so welcoming.

Following a video of what looked like other world leaders mocking him at a gathering at Buckingham Palace, President Trump canceled his final news conference, instead opting to fly back to the White House, leaving many wondering if he is still fit to run America.

And after appearing to be snubbed by a member of the Royal Family, it seems the only thing Trump has to look forward to this Christmas is the possibility of being the third president to be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors – Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached.

The recent NATO summit in London had been billed as the perfect opportunity to showcase his global leadership skills and potentially boost his appeal for his re-election campaign next year. However, after an unpleasant and awkward meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron as well as a “hot-mic” video which showed other world leaders “mocking” him, Mr. Trump decided to cut short his stay and head home.

Embed from Getty Images

But not before Trump called out Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as being “two-faced.”

The issue seemed to arise when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked why Macron and Trudeau were running late for an event with the Queen. Trudeau then seemed to scornfully reply to not only Johnson but also Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands as well as Princess Anne that “he was late because he takes a 40 minute news conference at the top.” Further along the conversation Trudeau also states “you just watch his team’s jaws drop to the floor.” While it is unclear what the responding comments from the other leaders were, they can be seen smiling at his words. Although Trump was never personally mentioned in the now viral video he tweeted:

“The Fake News Media is doing everything possible to belittle my VERY successful trip to London for NATO. I got along great with the NATO leaders!”

He also claimed the credit for encouraging certain countries to increase their spending on military, adding, “No increase for U.S., only deep respect!”

It is a known fact that Trump has never seen an issue with arguing with other world leaders and has often used it to appeal to his Republican base. Antonia Ferrier worked as an aide to Senator Mitch McConnell – Republican of Kentucky – and commented that:

“The president has never been much bothered by shaking up international conventions, so tussling with foreign leaders, by those standards, isn’t a bad thing from his perspective. For many Americans, having their president stand up to foreign leaders is a sign of strength.”

Embed from Getty Images

Unfortunately it was not the first awkward encounter of Trump’s visit. During a public meeting on the same day both Trump and Macron were discussing Islamic State fighters with Macron, telling Trump “let’s be serious” over some of his comments.

Trump had also complained to reporters that he felt the comments Macron had made criticizing America’s seeming disengagement with NATIO as “very very nasty.”

Mr. Trump has always disliked those he perceived to not show him the respect he feels he deserves so these comments have touched an already prickly nerve.

As Trump’s biographer Gwenda Blair says, “Trump doesn’t just want to be in the club, he wants to be the unquestioned leader and center of attention. It had to be both humiliating and infuriating that the other heads of state who were mocking him were untouchable by tweet or insulting nickname, but no doubt he was already calculating the next round of tariffs he would send their way.”

Yet while there appears to be no escape from Trump’s upcoming impeachment hearings he announced he would not be watching them due to being too busy dealing with affairs of state.

The White House has also denied the opportunity to take part in the hearing, suggesting that the Democrats had “rigged” the entire event. However, this did not stop them sending some aides to monitor the proceedings.

While it is clear to many that the hearing will change nobody’s opinions, the House looks set to vote by the end of the year to impeach along party lines, followed by a trial.
Ferrier comments:

“While I wouldn’t say impeachment is a good thing for the president, it is a highly divisive and partisan issue breaking down on party lines. It has not changed people’s minds on the president.

His approval ratings are remarkably consistent, in particular with Republican voters, and he clearly relishes a fight.”