Hearings offer Trump a win-win possibility

Earlier this week President Vladimir Putin announced plans to amend Russia's constitution so he will, when he is obliged to stand down as president in 2024, retain power. Moscow's parliament was informed though not consulted on measures that mean Putin's two decades of autocracy will not end when he resigns.

Hearings offer Trump a win-win possibility

Earlier this week President Vladimir Putin announced plans to amend Russia's constitution so he will, when he is obliged to stand down as president in 2024, retain power. Moscow's parliament was informed though not consulted on measures that mean Putin's two decades of autocracy will not end when he resigns.

He will exercise his authority through a different, as yet undefined conduit. This was not unexpected as Putin was always likely to follow the example of his ally, China's Xi Jinping. Two years ago Xi Jinping contrived to have term limits on his office dropped which, in theory, would allow him stay in office for life.

Putin's consolidation of his position provoked some outrage from opposition figures and parties which Russia, unlike China, still tolerates.

In contrast to the machinations of Putin and Xi Jinping, who between them rule over 1.5bn souls, impeachment proceedings against America's President Donald Trump will intensify next week.

That process could, though it is unlikely, see Mr Trump become the first president to be dismissed from office. His two impeached predecessors – Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999 – avoided that humiliation.

It also seems reasonable to suggest that no such humiliation will intrude on the happy lives and careers of Putin or Xi Jingpin.

Trump has already been humiliated by being impeached by the House of Representatives but that verdict has not, publicly at least, taken the wind out of his sails.

He remains ebullient, all but certain that next week's Senate trial - more an exercise in partisan head counting than a disinterested judicial process - will not conclude by imposing the ultimate - political - sanction on him.

Such a judgement requires a two-thirds majority of voting senators and unless a number of Republicans undergo a Pauline conversion during the hearings their president will be no more than bruised - though he may not be vindicated.

That an outcome will lead to a Twitter fest of gloating and even more allegations about Democrats' efforts to overturn the 2016 election result - even though Trump, for all his drum beating, must know that the Democrats had no option but to take this path if they were to meet the obligations their constitution imposes on them. Nevertheless, Trump will spend the next month Twitter raging against the process and belittling his accusers which, in its own way, confirms the seriousness of the proceedings.

As House speaker Nancy Pelosi said, after resisting calls for hearings for many months, Trump ultimately “gave us no choice. He gave us no choice.”

She knows too that any outcome other than impeachment will energise Trump's re-election campaign and may contribute to his re-election later this year.

A high stakes game indeed but the alternative was to look the other way, to pretend that the trust inferred by the powers provided by America's constitution

Choice, the freedom to choose between right and wrong, participation or indifference, may be something we have come to take for granted.

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