Sunday 17 November 2019

Editorial: 'Trump faces truths he can't shout down with a tweet'

US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters


Having spent the last year railing at witch-hunts and lynchings, it seemed apt Halloween was the moment the US House of Representatives voted to formalise the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump wasted no time in taking to Twitter to brand the exercise: "The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!" Key Republican allies Devin Nunes and Steve Scalise accused the opposition of "acting like a cult".

The president might wish the ghouls and demons to be gone with the dawn, but the posse of very big beasts lining up against him will not be so easily exorcised. Ex-Republican senator William Cohen likened the president's outbursts to those of a dictator. In an interview on CNN, he urged viewers to read George Orwell's dystopian novel 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' and ask themselves: "Is that where we're headed?"

And that from someone inside the camp.

This time Mr Trump can't make the problems vanish with a tweet.

Outside the Trump administration bubble there is a real world; beyond the soundbite which cannot be drowned out by simply turning up the volume.

Yesterday Tim Morrison, the National Security Council's top Russia adviser, testified the administration's dealings with Ukraine gave him "a sinking feeling". While lawyers for the president's former national security adviser John Bolton say he will appear before the House panel next week should a subpoena be issued. This is not "fake news".

After a disastrous press conference earlier this week on the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Mr Trump was greeted at the World Series not with a salute but with roaring boos and "Lock him up!" chants.

The champion of divisive rhetoric is having it turned back on himself.

The president has a masterful gift for the catch-phrase: from "Make America Great Again" and "drain the swamp", to building a "big, beautiful" wall and - of course - "Lock her up". All of which have been brilliant levers for mobilising his base.

But they have also served as a great distraction from inconvenient truths. Sooner rather than later there will be an interval in the circus; those who have watched in disbelief as one truth-defying stunt is followed by another will have a moment to pause and evaluate the entire performance.

The spotlight will turn to the scheduled public hearings: the transcripts of testimony and gruelling cross-examination of witnesses.

For when it comes to impeaching a president, the constitution gives the House a role like the grand jury in a criminal case. It collects and hears the evidence and decides whether to bring charges.

From there, the action moves to the Senate.

It will be a story rooted in evidence on the ground where facts will not vanish with a flash-bang.

It will be the greatest media show on earth featuring one of its greatest showmen in the lion's den.

Irish Independent

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