Sunday 26 January 2020

Trump hails defenders as impeachment voting looms

Twitter tirade: President Trump turned to his favourite medium. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Twitter tirade: President Trump turned to his favourite medium. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

John Wagner

US President Donald Trump has praised his Republican defenders in Congress as "warriors" as a Democratic-led House panel prepared to take historic votes on two articles of impeachment against him for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The House Judiciary Committee resumed deliberations following an abrupt halt late on Thursday night.

The full House is expected to vote to impeach Trump next week, though Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said there is "no chance" his chamber will vote to remove him from office.

At the heart of the Democrats' case is the allegation Mr Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice-president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kiev conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

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The House Judiciary Committee had planned to vote on the articles of impeachment on Thursday night, but after more than 14 hours of debate, Democrats decided before midnight to hold off on the history-making vote.

The debate began with angry exchanges, personal insults and recycled arguments about process and propriety as it moved towards voting to impeach Mr Trump for "high crimes and misdemeanours."

Congress has impeached only two presidents, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before the House could vote on articles of impeachment in the Watergate scandal. Lawmakers drafted three articles against Nixon, including charges of "high crimes and misdemeanours" which mirror the abuse-of-power and obstruction allegations Mr Trump faces.

In a burst of early morning tweets, Mr Trump praised the performance of Republicans on the House committee.

"The Republicans House members were fantastic," he tweeted. "It always helps to have a much better case, in fact the Dems have no case at all, but the unity and sheer brilliance of these Republican warriors, all of them, was a beautiful sight to see. Dems had no answers."

In another tweet, he claimed poll numbers "have gone through the roof in favour of no impeachment especially with swing states and independents in swing states."

It was not clear what polls Mr Trump was citing. Two national polls released this week showed a bare majority opposed to ousting Mr Trump.

Some 45pc of Americans say Mr Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 50pc disagree, according to a Monmouth University poll. A Quinnipiac University poll showed 45pc of registered voters say Mr Trump should be impeached and removed, while 51pc say he should not.

Some other recent polls have shown a different picture. An Economist-YouGov poll this week showed 44pc of Americans support the Senate removing Mr Trump if he is impeached by the House, while 40pc are opposed.

In his tweets, Trump also repeated a claim his job approval stands at 95pc among fellow Republicans. That is not supported by any public poll.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a video highlighting former House Republicans who have spoken out against Mr Trump's conduct toward Ukraine. "Former Republican House members know the oaths they took," the two-minute video says. "Why don't today's Republicans?'

It features news clips of Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Joe Scarborough of Florida, David Jolly of Florida, Bob Inglis of South Carolina and Justin Amash of Michigan. Unlike the others, Amash remains in Congress, having changed his affiliation from Republican to independent in July.

"I just ask my Republican friends, if Barack Obama had done any of these things, would we have impeached him?" Mr Inglis asks.

"And the answer's pretty clearly yes. In fact, we would have impeached him and removed him from office very quickly if he'd done any of these things.

"So it's important in a republic to keep in mind that you've got to follow principles... You can't just decide that, oh no, for our team, we have a different rule." (© Washington Post)

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