US President Donald Trump is on the verge of being impeached. The US House of Representatives has approved charges over abuse of power and obstruction of justice. This sets up a historic vote that could make Trump only the third president in US history to be impeached.
Trump is accused of withholding $400 million in military aid to pressure Ukrainian president Zelensky to investigate his political rival former vice-president Joe Biden and his son. These charges were brought by a unidentified whistleblower’s complaint over a phone conversation between the two leaders in July.
Trump is also charged over pressuring his counterpart to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory promoted by Russia that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential elections. The Democrats have alleged Trump of leveraging a meeting with the Ukrainian president at the White House. Trump continued to pressure his counterpart who needed Washington’s backing for negotiations with Russian President Putin over the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine.
A conviction that could see Trump being removed from office is unlikely. It is also unclear how long the trial will last. The trial presided by the US Chief Justice in the Republican-controlled Senate could start by January. Trump is content for a full trial with several witnesses including Biden and the whistleblower whose complain led to the impeachment.
The US president is arguably one of the most powerful men in the world but he is not completely invincible. The US founders included impeachment in the constitution as an option for removing presidents by Congress over ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours’. Richard Nixon was close to being impeached over the Watergate scandal before he resigned. Bill Clinton was impeached but survived conviction in the infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Donald Trump may be next in line although he has denied any wrongdoing and labeled the investigation as a ‘witch hunt’ and a sham. He said there was no ‘quid pro quo’ (this for that) in his conversations with the Ukrainian president. Many Republicans have even said that the president did nothing wrong and there is no direct evidence he withheld aid in exchange for a favour.
The impeachment proceedings have shown how bitterly public opinion is divided on partisan lines. A survey suggests 47 percent Americans favour that Trump should be impeached. If he survives the trial, he will carve himself a clear path towards winning the next presidential elections.