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.

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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. 

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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

President Trump Will Not Participate in Impeachment Hearings

The first phase of the impeachment inquiry, wherein the House Intelligence Committee questioned fact witnesses about a phone call made on July 25th in which President Trump asked President Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate Burisma, a company connected to Joe Biden, has concluded. Now, the inquiry moves to the second phase in the House of Representatives, and the evidence that has been collected so far will be presented to the House Judiciary Committee, during which members of Congress will deliberate over whether to draft articles of impeachment to deliver to the Senate. 

The hearings will be chaired by Representative Jerrold Nadler, who recently penned a letter inviting Trump and his legal counsel to participate in the proceedings. Yesterday, the president declined to participate in the hearings in any capacity, accusing the Democrats of conducting an unfair and biased process, and even going so far as to accuse them of deliberately scheduling the hearings while Trump is out of the country, as he is heading to London this week to participate in a NATO summit.

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The White House’s refusal to participate in the impeachment process in the House marks a reversal from previous comments made by the president. During an interview on Fox News, Trump claimed that he’d be willing to submit a written testimony to the House of Representatives, and said that he wanted a trial and that he’s looking forward to it. Trump and many Republicans believe that impeachment is bound to backfire on the Democrats, as the president is likely to be acquitted by the Senate and then use the Democrats’ failed impeachment inquiry as evidence to bolster his argument that he is being unfairly prosecuted. 

Though Trump will not be in the United States during Wednesday’s hearing, he could have chosen to send legal counsel and suggest witnesses for questioning. That being said, the president’s lack of cooperation with the Democrats comes as no surprise, as since the inquiry began Trump has sharply rebuked allegations of wrongdoing and attacked the process of impeachment, ordering some key witnesses to defy subpoenas in a possible violation of law. Republicans in both the House and the Senate have essentially fallen in line under Trump, as every Republican in the House of Representatives voted against opening an impeachment inquiry and Senate Republicans have spoken out forcefully against the proceedings.

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Undeterred, Democrats are not changing their plans to accommodate the president’s requests. The Judiciary Committee’s first hearing will be held on Wednesday, and instead of speaking with fact witnesses, lawmakers will question academics and other legal experts to determine whether the president’s actions justify impeachment. Notably, both Democrats and Republicans had expressed hope that Trump would decide to participate in the inquiry, but they are surely not surprised by his refusal to do so given his past behavior. The fact that the president had an opportunity to participate in the hearings but chose not to undercuts arguments from Trump and his defenders that the White House was not given the chance to help define and shape the process. In fact, this refusal may become part of Democrats’ argument that the president has been actively obstructing justice since learning about the whistleblower’s complaint.

While members of both parties surely would have appreciated Trump’s participation in his own impeachment inquiry, his lack of participation is unlikely to change the outcome in the House of Representatives. Democrats such as Adam Schiff have stated that they were unwilling to be subject to a game of “rope-a-dope” in the courts, proceeding rapidly despite various attempts to stonewall the investigation. Democrats have said that they hope to conclude the first part of impeachment, which takes place in the House of Representatives, by Christmas, and so far show no signs of missing that self-imposed deadline.


What to Expect from Public Impeachment Hearings This Week

The presidential impeachment inquiry is well underway in the House of Representatives, as they just voted along party lines to enter into the public phase of the process, during which witness testimony will be televised live on several networks. While much of the evidence unearthed during the inquiry has already been made public by way of news reports, comments from representatives, and document releases including transcripts, the public performances from witnesses with first-hand knowledge of Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine are hoped to bring about a sea change in the American people’s view of the matter. 

Scheduled to be broadcast live on major networks like ABC and NBC, the hearings are expected to attract a wide audience both in America and around the world, as political spectacles of this sort have historically drawn large crowds. Democrats hope that being able to hear witnesses speak directly about the president’s misconduct will persuade more Americans to support impeachment, whereas Republicans will try to use the opportunity to deflect and evade, as they have by and large criticized the inquiry as a “witch hunt” since it began.

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The current impeachment inquiry is historic, as presidential impeachment has only been attempted three other times in U.S. history, and while impeachment led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, no American president has ever been removed from office through the mechanism of impeachment. Impeachment is built into the U.S. constitution as a corrective mechanism against a tyrannical or dangerous president, and is meant to be used only in extreme circumstances when essential elements of American democracy are at risk. 

Democrats hope to explain, through witness testimony, how the president abused the awesome powers of the executive branch in service of his own personal interests, against the interests of the country and of American democracy as a whole.

Two sessions will take place, on Wednesday and Friday, during which some of the most compelling witnesses from the first phase of the inquiry will speak candidly before the American public, answering questions from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Democrats will use the opportunity to attempt to establish a clear, compelling, straightforward narrative of events concerning the president’s attempted extortion of the Ukrainian government for political favors. Meanwhile, Republicans will likely do everything in their power to obstruct the investigation, and are bound to attack the process of impeachment, accuse the Bidens of wrongdoing, and attempt to diminish the credibility of witnesses. While Republicans can suggest witnesses, the direction of the inquiry is currently in the hands of Democrats, as they represent the majority party in the House. Republicans have taken bold steps in their opposition of the inquiry, even attempting to reveal the identity of the original whistleblower, in violation of federal law.

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Congress and the American people will hear testimony from three key witnesses: the former United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor; the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, George Kent; and senior American diplomat Marie Yovanovitch. Bill Taylor will testify first. All three witnesses have previously testified during closed-door meetings, and the transcripts of these testimonies have been released, so lawmakers and journalists already have a good idea of what the testimony will contain. These witnesses defied a White House order not to comply with congressional subpoenas and have all told very similar stories about their observations of the President’s conduct. As career government officials and non-political-appointees, they are considered by experts and the media to be reliable and trustworthy witnesses, though Republicans are sure to attack their credibility nevertheless. 

Republicans have struggled to mount a unified defense for the president, who often changes his explanations and justifications for his conduct. Public impeachment hearings will only make this problem worse for Republicans, at least in the short term, as the many allegations of the president’s extortion of Ukraine are consistent and even corroborated by evidence released by the White House and statements from Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Witnesses will likely testify that the president engaged not only in a quid-pro-quo arrangement with Ukraine, but in fact extorted the small European country for illegal election assistance. Democrats hope to explain, through witness testimony, how the president abused the awesome powers of the executive branch in service of his own personal interests, against the interests of the country and of American democracy as a whole. Only time will tell, however, how voters react and more importantly how Republican senators handle the likely upcoming trial after Democrats present them with articles of impeachment.

White House

Key Details Omitted from White House Transcript, Official Testifies

The House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry has been progressing rapidly, despite the protests of Republican members of both the House and the Senate as well as strong opposition from the White House. While the White House has attempted to block witnesses from testifying before committees investigating potentially impeachable offenses, many government officials who have been subpoenaed have appeared in the House of Representatives nonetheless, offering damning testimony that corroborates both the whistleblower complaint which started the inquiry as well as leaks from the Trump administration and a reconstructed transcript released by the White House describing a call between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine. 

As witness testimony reveals the extent of the Trump administration’s involvement in attempting to secure political dirt from a foreign power, it is also revealing the administration’s attempts to hide their tracks. Yesterday, for instance, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman testified that the transcript released by the White House omitted details about the President’s conversation with Zelensky, suggesting a possible attempt to obscure the nature of the call.

According to Vindman, Mr. Zelensky said the word “Burisma,” the Ukranian energy company Hunter Biden worked for, whereas the official reconstructed transcript is more vague. Additionally, Vindman claims that Mr. Trump mentioned the existence of recordings of Mr. Biden discussing issues of Ukrainian corruption, whereas the reconstructed transcript includes no such detail. Vindman testified that he tried to correct the record, but his corrections were ignored, which is unusual for official notes of conversations between the President and other officials. 

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Additionally, previous witness testimony has alleged that reconstructed transcripts, including the one released by the White House in response to the whistleblower complaint, were stored in a top-secret computer system to which only a handful of individuals had access, in a break from traditional White House methods of handling this sort of information, suggesting that the White House intended to keep secret the details of this call among others even within its own administration. 

Vindman’s testimony doesn’t change investigators’ impression of the fundamental purpose of the call, but rather bolsters the accusation that the call represented an improper request for the Ukranian President to assist in Trump’s reelection campaign. As such, Vindman’s testimony simply adds to the increasingly convincing collection of evidence procured by Congress, enabling the rapid transition towards the public phase of the impeachment inquiry. 

Rep. Adam Schiff, one of the House of Representatives’ main investigators, has declined to take legal action against White House officials who have refused to comply with subpoenas, instead relying on the testimonies of others, including diplomats Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker. Democrats have stated that they want to complete their impeachment investigation quickly, and given the substantial amount of evidence already available to investigators, the testimonies from witnesses who have refused to cooperate with subpoenas are considered unnecessary.

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Although Republicans have decried the impeachment inquiry as an illegitimate and partisan attack on the President fueled by lingering resentment about the outcome of the 2016 election, Democrats’ actions have nonetheless plunged the GOP into chaos, as their defenses of the President’s conduct have become increasingly strained. During Vindman’s testimony, a shouting match between Democratic and Republican representatives reportedly erupted, and last week Republicans attempted to physically obstruct witness testimony, refusing to leave a secure hearing room during a scheduled closed-door proceeding. Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate have generally been uncharacteristically quiet about the specific accusations, claiming that they are reserving judgment until the trial.

Republican protests to the impeachment proceedings have generally been specious — talking points have included the claim that the President is being robbed of due process rights, that the House never voted to formalize the inquiry, and that Republicans have been denied access to witness testimonies. All of these complaints have been addressed by Pelosi’s announcement of a vote to formalize proceedings. Nancy Pelosi has called for a vote tomorrow, October 31st, on a resolution to formalize rules for the public phase of the impeachment inquiry, which would allow Republicans to call witnesses, make witness testimony public, and allow Trump’s lawyers to present a formal defense of him. 

While Republicans in the House of Representatives are likely to continue to decry the proceedings despite these concessions, the Democratic majority in the House ensures that impeachment is all but certain. Only time will tell, however, whether the Senate will decide to remove the President from office, which requires a two-thirds majority vote, meaning 20 Republican senators would have to break ranks with the President, an unlikely but possible scenario.

White House

Trump Administration Refuses to Participate in Impeachment Inquiry

On Tuesday, the White House announced that it would not cooperate whatsoever with an impeachment inquiry started by House of Representatives Democrats who are looking into whether the President is seeking to undermine the integrity of the 2020 election by soliciting campaign assistance from foreign powers. Although the Constitution grants the House of Representatives the power to bring forth articles of impeachment, and to issue subpoenas and compel witnesses to testify in order to do so, the Trump Administration has introduced the novel argument that Congress’s impeachment inquiry is illegitimate, and therefore the White House has no obligation to produce documents or allow witnesses to testify. 

Following along those lines, the White House blocked a key witness, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, from being deposed, though Sondland expressed a clear interest in speaking with members of Congress. Representative Adam Schiff, one of the House committee chairmen leading the impeachment inquiry, has previously stated that any action taken by the White House to delay its inquiry would be interpreted as obstruction of justice, the basis of which one of the articles of impeachment against Nixon was formed.

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The White House made this argument in the form of a scathing letter addressed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in which White House counsel Pat Cipollone asserted the impeachment effort is nothing more than a partisan attack on the executive branch of government, motivated by Democrats wishing to undo the results of the 2016 election. The letter also asserts that the inquiry is unconstitutional and illegal, and represents a violation of civil liberties and the principle of separation of powers. The letter is a clear attempt by the administration to slow down the impeachment inquiry process, in the hopes that it becomes a long, drawn-out affair that ultimately hurts the Democratic Party’s favorability. 

Democrats have responded by asserting that the letter’s criticisms of the inquiry are baseless and won’t hold up in court, and have indicated that they plan to follow through on their threat to include obstruction of justice charges among their articles of impeachment and that the administration’s refusal to cooperate would not slow down the pace of the inquiry, particularly considering the fact that damning evidence suggesting the President’s request of a foreign nation to interfere in the election is already publicly available.

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The Trump campaign is already trying to take advantage of the impeachment inquiry in their re-election efforts by asserting in campaign advertisements that Trump is a victim of a partisan attack by Democrats intending to undermine his legitimacy as President. The longer the impeachment inquiry plays out, the more the campaign will be able to send this message, making the strategy of delaying the investigation as much as possible more fruitful. The Trump campaign has already raised a tremendous amount of money, totalling more than $300 million this year alone, meaning that the campaign will be able to send a message of victimhood broadly using social media and other outlets for as long as necessary.

The White House’s strategy is risky, especially considering the fragile legal ground its argument stands on. A clear majority of the US population supports the impeachment inquiry, even in these early stages of the investigation, with one poll indicating that 58% of Americans support impeaching Trump. The administration’s outright refusal to participate in the inquiry is likely to drive this number even higher, as an unwillingness to testify and produce evidence suggests the presence of a consciousness of guilt, and many Americans recognize obstruction of justice as an impeachable offense. Several commentators have characterized the administration’s response as a constitutional crisis, defined as a conflict between the branches of government that the Constitution has no mechanism to resolve, which is a breakdown of the fundamental structure of government. We are certainly in uncharted waters, as this is only the fourth impeachment inquiry in American history, and the first one in which both opposing sides are totally unwilling to cede any ground in the conflict. 

USA China Trade War 2

Amidst Ongoing Trade War, China Ignores Trump’s Investigation Request

Ever since President Trump began his controversial trade war with China, Chinese-run state media has been openly critical of the American president, as the economies of both countries are harmed by the ongoing dispute. However, after the president’s recent and highly contentious public request that China open an investigation into the business affairs of his political opponent and his family in that country, their media has been mostly quiet, signalling a lack of willingness to cooperate with the White House in election interference. On Thursday, while standing on the White House’s front lawn before boarding Air Force One, Trump told reporters that China should “start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.” The president’s efforts to solicit foreign aid in discrediting his political opponents in the next presidential election is the subject of an ongoing impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.

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Although China is a country with heavily enforced restrictions on speech, news of the president’s request has seeped onto their version of the internet. However, official media in the country has had nothing to say about the request, and mentions of Trump’s solicitation on Chinese social media are few and far between, suggesting the country’s highly sophisticated censorship apparatus is at work preventing the population from engaging in conversation on the subject. According to several experts interviewed by the New York Times, China’s lack of response is indicative of the country’s struggles in navigating its awkward relationship with the United States. The country is attempting to stand tough in its relationship with the U.S., but also wants to avoid worsening tensions with an unpredictable and chaotic president. Relations are particularly sensitive in advance of the election, where the country is likely to be a primary subject of discussion.

According to Susan Shirk, a deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for China during the Clinton administration, the country’s silence on the subject is itself a political message to the U.S. indicating both a lack of willingness to cooperate with the president and an effort not to provoke the president, whose erratic behavior is feared to worsen the global economy. Additionally, China is still in the midst of its National Day holiday, during which state media are usually slow to respond to international affairs. After Sunday, the country’s top trade negotiator, Liu He, is expected to travel to Washington to discuss trade, and it’s unclear as of yet how the president’s request will shape these talks. 

However, China has already declared a position of being unwilling to meddle in other countries’ internal affairs, and as such, if the country expresses a willingness to work with the administration to discredit Biden, this change in policy position would be difficult to explain. But the United States is a uniquely powerful country on the world stage, and as such the country may find benefit in making an exception to this rule. That being said, Professor Zhang, of Peking University, suggested that even if China opens up an investigation into Hunter Biden, they’d likely keep the findings of that investigation to themselves, as they are a notoriously secretive country.

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On the Chinese internet, Trump has been given the nickname “Te-mei-pu,” a pun which roughly translates to “totally unpredictable.” The president’s trade war, which he started by imposing tariffs on imports of Chinese goods and which China retaliated to by imposing similar tariffs on American imports, has been unpopular in both countries, as it’s widely viewed as unnecessary and has led to an increase in prices paid for by consumers. The country has widely reported on Trump’s request of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens just a few days prior, making their silence on this issue all the more jarring. The closest the country has come to commenting on the matter is a statement from China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who said “China will not interfere in the internal affairs of the US, and we trust that the American people will be able to sort out their own problems.” China is widely unpopular in the US, and Democratic presidential candidates, including frontrunners Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, have criticized both Trump’s trade war and the country’s policies.


How the World is Reacting to US Impeachment Inquiry

On Tuesday, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would be opening an impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower’s complaint, which alleged that the President had attempted to court the assistance of a foreign power to interfere in the 2020 presidential election, was confirmed by the White House when it released a memorialization of a phone call with the president of Ukraine. President Trump is now the fourth-ever president to have faced an impeachment investigation, and the first to have been accused by Congress of conspiring with a foreign government to undermine American democracy. Given the historic nature of the occasion, Pelosi’s announcement made headlines not just in the US but around the world, inspiring a range of reactions in essentially every nation on the planet. Because of the significance of the United States in shaping global politics, other nations are keenly interested in how American politics plays out, and this interest has perhaps never been as intense as it is in the present moment.

According to CNN, most envoys and diplomats are concerned by the recent developments in the United States, but have also grown used to the chaos that has unfolded in Washington DC on a near-daily basis. Over the past two years, the US has fallen from being a leading voice on the world stage to being one that offers a vacuum of leadership, as President Trump has failed to impress upon other world leaders and has not been successful in negotiations with countries like Mexico, Iran, North Korea, and China. While many government officials around the world were expecting the president’s time to be largely occupied with re-election concerns heading into 2020, recent developments in Congress lead them to believe Trump will have even less interest in foreign affairs. Many around the world are skeptical that impeachment will result in Trump’s removal from office, and even believe that impeachment will help Trump’s re-election campaign, as it allows the president to continue to portray himself as the victim, a strategy that has worked well for him in the past.

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Much attention has been focused on the fact that Trump unilaterally decided to declassify a memo describing his conversation with the leader of another country, which has led to concern about the secrecy of phone calls with the president. For instance, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov has condemned the president for making the phone call public, and Russia warned the US that there would be negative repercussions if Trump released conversations between the White House and the Kremlin. (According to reports from several news outlets, details about Trump’s incriminating phone call with Ukraine were initially quarantined in a highly classified computer system designed for protecting state secrets, as were conversations involving Saudi Arabia and Putin.) Officials of foreign governments worry that they will not be able to have private conversations with the United States, as Trump’s declassification of details of the Ukraine call establishes a precedent that the White House may arbitrarily decide to release details involving conduct with other countries.

Though many officials predict the White House will be less involved with international affairs as a result of the impeachment proceedings, not every official considers this to be negative. Officials from around the world have long been concerned about the effects of Trump’s haphazard decisions when dealing with other countries, such as his glorification of North Korea, his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, his cancellation of the Iran nuclear deal, and his expensive trade war with China, and sometimes view Trump’s presence in global affairs as a nuisance rather than as an asset. While some are concerned that Trump may pursue war as a distraction from impeachment proceedings, most view this as unlikely, and instead are concerned about the potential impact on global markets. A number of officials who spoke with CNN marvelled at how quickly and how far political discourse in the US has fallen, and Gerard Araud, a former French ambassador to the US, characterized Trump’s conversation with the Ukranian president as “appalling.”