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Donald Trump to be impeached? A look at what foreign media has to say

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 17 May 2017, 23:52 IST

By the time Tuesday, 16 May, was done and dusted, advocates for the impeachment of the President of the United States had a lot more material to work with.

The latest piece of news coming in from the New York Times reported that Donald Trump had asked the now-ex Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey to "shut down the federal investigation into Mr Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn". This was according to a memo written by Comey after a meeting in February. ““I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr Comey, according to the memo," the New York Times continued.

In fact, while firing Comey, the Russian investigation was almost certainly on Trump's mind. The White House immediately denied this report. However, the report of Trump telling Comey to go slow on his investigation into Flynn is clear evidence of the President's meddling in the Justice Department and FBI's investigations into links between Trump's associates and Russia.

On Monday, 15 May, Washington was left reeling from yet another shocking revelation by the Washington Post that Trump had divulged highly classified material to Russian officials in an Oval office meeting over the weekend. "The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said," wrote the Washington Post, continuing, "The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State."

The information revealed to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak was about how the "Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances". Trump stood by his decision to share the sensitive information with the Russians.

In response, Trump took to Twitter. “As president, I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled WH meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety,” Trump tweeted. “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against Isis and terrorism.”

Texas Congressman Al Green made a fiery speech on the House floor. "It's a position of conscience for me," the Texas Democrat said. "This is about what I believe. And this is where I stand. I will not be moved. The president must be impeached."

"Noting that no one – including the president – is above the law, he called on the American people to let their members of Congress know where they stood. He also said members of Congress had to "make their own decisions" on where they stood about the issue," reported USA Today. In fact, early in the week, Green became the first Democrat to publicly call for the impeachment of Trump. He talked about how the firing of James Comey was "an obstruction of justice" in what is the latest in a movement against the President.

Ever since day one of his presidency, there have been calls to "Impeach Forty-five". With the past week being the worst since inauguration for President Trump, it now seems like only a matter of time before something gives. The Republicans though, aren't ready to give up on their president just yet. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell simply replied "no" when asked about whether he was losing confidence in Trump or not. Even speaker Paul Ryan has been standing by Trump's side without a question.

The firing of James Comey, the pressure to tone down the investigation of Flynn, and the sharing of information with the Russians have all reignited the conversation and chorus around the call for Trump's impeachment. The top six analysts at Lawfare joined in a byline to write about how Trump may have broken his oath of office. "The declaration that the story “as reported” is untrue leaves plenty of room for the administration to pinpoint discrepancies in the Post story without denying the substance."

"It’s very hard to argue that carelessly giving away highly sensitive material to an adversary foreign power constitutes a faithful execution of the office of President". The Lawfare post concludes by saying, "There’s thus no reason why Congress couldn’t consider a grotesque violation of the President’s oath as a standalone basis for impeachment—a high crime and misdemeanor in and of itself"

A report in The Guardian, meanwhile, claims cases against Trump were already in motion. "A campaign is underway to impeach Trump for allegedly violating constitutional bans on receiving certain gifts. Others have argued for an arcane application of constitutional law under which the vice-president and cabinet together might declare the president unfit to serve."

According to the constitution, a president can be impeached for bribery, treason, or other high crimes and misdemeanours. "Trump’s critics are actively exploring the path to impeachment or the invocation of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, which allows for the replacement of a President who is judged to be mentally unfit," writes Evan Osnos in the New Yorker.

"By any normal accounting, the chance of a Presidency ending ahead of schedule is remote. In two hundred and twenty-eight years, only one President has resigned; two have been impeached, though neither was ultimately removed from office; eight have died. But nothing about Trump is normal. Although some of my sources maintained that laws and politics protect the President to a degree that his critics underestimate, others argued that he has already set in motion a process of his undoing. All agree that Trump is unlike his predecessors in ways that intensify his political, legal, and personal risks. He is the first President with no prior experience in government or the military, the first to retain ownership of a business empire, and the oldest person ever to assume the Presidency."

With an approval rating of just 40 percent, it's the lowest of any newly elected president since Gallup started measuring it and that is a cause for concern. Osnos writes, "It is not a good sign for a beleaguered President when his party gets dragged down, too". The Republican Party's favourable view has dropped seven points to 40 percent, according to Pew Research Center. Furthermore, "The Administration’s defiance of conventional standards of probity makes it acutely vulnerable to ethical scandal," Osnos writes. "The White House recently stopped releasing visitors’ logs, limiting the public’s ability to know who is meeting with the President and his staff. Trump has also issued secret waivers to ethics rules so that political appointees can alter regulations that they previously lobbied to dismantle."

Finally, Osnos says that his unpopularity would be a liability, would there be a movement to impeach Trump. "Were Trump to face impeachment, his lawyers would likely try to present him as a victim of a partisan feud, but his unpopularity would be a liability; Republicans in Congress would have little reason to defend him. Nonetheless, the Clinton impeachment may contain an even larger warning for Democrats in pursuit of Trump. “It’s pretty important to be seen in sorrow rather than anger,” Stewart, the historian of impeachment, said. “Don’t emerge red in tooth and claw. That’s not merely tactical—it’s good for the country, because you should only pursue impeachment if you really have to.” The first step, according to Osnos, is for the Democrats to retake the house.

Many Americans are of the favourable view that Trump's impeachment should be on the table. A new survey from Public Policy Polling shows that 48 percent of Americans want to see Donald Trump impeached and 45 percent think he will not complete his full term. A good 54 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump's presidential performance.

"Given how often Trump has gotten away with transgressing political norms, ignoring the law, and violating minimal standards of human decency, Democratic voters have had to struggle, over the past several months, not to succumb to fatalism. But we may have now finally, finally, reached a tipping point," writes Michelle Goldberg in Slate.

First published: 17 May 2017, 23:52 IST
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.