Donald Trump has become the third US President to be impeached by the House of Representatives, and like them, in all likelihood, he will be acquitted in the Senate. The House, controlled by the Democrats, voted for his impeachment on two articles. The first article relates to the abuse of power, by putting pressure on the Ukrainian president — by refusing to meet him and release military aid — unless he began an inquiry against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son’s business interests in that country. The second relates to obstructing the work of Congress, with Trump charged for threatening witnesses in the congressional inquiry into the abuse of power. The House expectedly voted along party lines, and so will the Republican-controlled Senate.
This was well known before the process began. The Republican leader in the Senate had made it clear that he would do everything in his power to acquit the president. The Democratic argument for going ahead with a process that would be futile has been that Trump’s transgressions are so egregious that an impeachment by the House was necessary in order to uphold the US Constitution. Now, in anticipation of the defeat in the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has decided to delay the inevitable by not sending the Articles to the Senate, thus leaving Trump in the limbo of an inconclusive impeachment. She also hopes that in his eagerness to have his name cleared expeditiously, he will force the Senate to accept conditions that the Democrats want met for the trial.
If all this seems somewhat familiar to Indians, it is because the US is about as bitterly polarised between Republicans and Democrats over the Trump presidency as India is between Hindutva and non-Hindutva politics in the Narendra Modi regime. Pelosi’s determination to have Trump impeached in the House in the name of the Constitution, but place a hold on sending it to the Senate, smacks of a kind of shortsighted politics that also plagues the Opposition in this country. It backfires, and provides the intended target the opportunity to play victim. Trump and his supporters will make much of the denial of the opportunity to defend himself immediately. Plus, with his candidature for a second term on course, he has about a year of campaign meetings in which to unleash his defence in the ways he does, and consolidate his Republican base. 2020 is going to be a bitter year in US politics. India will recognise its own reflection in some parts of it.