On 24 September 2019, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
This in itself is slightly strange as there is already supposed to be an impeachment inquiry into President Trump that was formally started on 12 September by the House Judiciary Committee when it positively voted in a “resolution for investigative procedures”.
That, apparently, is needed to guide the committee through an “investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment” – ie, an impeachment inquiry. Moreover, the committee’s chair, Jerry Nadler, is also claiming that the judiciary committee has been ‘unofficially’ pursuing an impeachment investigation for some time.
To clarify: a formal impeachment inquiry is not an impeachment but rather an investigation to see if there are any grounds for impeachment. After it has finished, the Speaker of the House will decide which items will be put to Congress to be voted on to start an impeachment proper.
Impeachment is a punishment for what Congress considers to be wrongdoing by a Federal official (more usually judges than presidents). If the person is successfully impeached, they lose their position.
The act of impeachment is semi-judicial but fully political and, in the case of presidents, of the three who have faced impeachment so far, all were set upon initially by the controlling bloc of congressmen of the opposite political party to the one of which they were a member.
Democrats picked up 40 seats in the House of Representatives in the 2018 elections and are now the clear majority, giving them the strength and opportunity not only to attack the president in office but also to make sure that any impeachment will run into the 2020 presidential election campaign. The idea is clearly to damage Trump’s re-election campaign, even if he is cleared of charges and able to run again.
Against this Democrat majority in the House of Representatives – the only place where an impeachment process can start – it ends in the Senate and requires two-thirds (67 senators) of those voting to convict. The Democrats have only 47 senators and so must convince 20 Republicans to join them if the impeachment should come to the point of voting to proceed or not.
It seems unlikely at the present time that the president would be indicted (even though he has many Republican enemies), but the impeachment process would take most of Trump’s time and energy for the remainder of his first term, and, whether the Democrats realise it or not, could either impair or galvanise his election campaign for 2020.
Six house committees, including the judiciary committee, which, we are told by its chairman, was already in ‘investigate Trump’ mode, are now involved in the pre-impeachment probe, and are all busy trying to glean evidence of anything that might furnish the House with the necessary justifiction for ‘passing articles of impeachment’.
Impeachment is written into the US Constitution, but it is not clear regarding whether illegality alone is necessary to impeach or which legal acts may also be included. It acts a bit like an employment assessment, but with a legal sting in the tail.
A president may be impeached and removed from office, the constitution says, over charges described as “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours”. Ever since that was written, and it did follow a bitter debate, all kinds of legal experts have been at odds over exactly what a president can be impeached for.
In 1868, when Andrew Johnson, a most disreputable white supremacist, was impeached on 11 counts, one of them was talking too loudly and aggressively in Congress. In the end, Johnson wasn’t convicted and so was not removed from office, but he was a lame-duck president following the impeachment and couldn’t even garner sufficient backing from his own party to stand for a second term.
The closest the Senate has ever come to removing a president was in the case of Richard Nixon in 1974. Nixon resigned before the vote to proceed with the impeachment charges was taken, knowing that his impeachment was virtually assured and that removal was definitely the goal of Congress, which might also have left him open to legal charges.
Although he never got as far along the impeachment road as Johnson or Clinton, it was assumed by all concerned that if the articles of impeachment had ever been voted on, the end result would have surely been that he was convicted and removed.
Bill Clinton was impeached mainly over his public claim not to have had sex with researcher Monica Lewinski, but, in spite of it having been proved that he had lied, he was not convicted and was allowed to finish his second term of office as another lame-duck president.
So, what are the areas under ‘investigation’ in the bid to bring down or cage Trump?
The claims of involvement with Russia in its supposed bid to ‘fix’ the presidential election that he won could raise its head again, but it wouldn’t be a major plank of the impeachment as no real evidence has been found of Russian wrongdoing, or of Trump’s possible involvement, other than personal enemies of the man saying he did have some vague connection to Russia.
This line of enquiry might also throw up questions regarding the USA’s very real involvement in most other countries’ elections around the world – those of both friends and foes.
Of course, Trump has also pointed out that the US electoral system is subject to massive fraud, but it would be difficult, one imagines, for Congress to try to push those two items together on a charge sheet without laying itself open to some ridicule.
It is also possible that Trump’s very strong denunciation of US security services (CIA, FBI, NSA, etc) and the US media at his inauguration in 2017 could be used as a ‘misdemeanour’ to back up other charges.
His many public attacks on top officials whom he has put into various offices, many of whom went on to be fired before their names were painted on the office door, could also come into this category, along with his equally public attacks via Twitter on those investigating him, such as deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and special counsel Robert Mueller.
The main charge at the moment seems to be that Trump asked the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to start an inquiry into Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine.
Following the US/EU-inspired and funded coup by internal fascist forces, Hunter Biden (a dishonourably discharged soldier with a history of drug addiction) was given a place on the board of the Ukrainian energy company – a non-executive position (he didn’t actually visit the country during the 18 months of his ‘work’ there) that nevertheless paid him £50,000 per month.
Hunter is the son of Joe Biden, who was the US vice-president in the regime of President Barack Obama, who was in office at the time of the coup, and the lucrative opening of the energy company to the Biden family was seen by many as a thank-you to the US government. The arrangement certainly sheds some light on the extremely high number visits made by Biden Sr to Ukraine while he was in office (reported by friendly media as six but by independent observers to number as many as 17).
President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden wanted the Ukraine’s chief prosecutor dismissed, and President Trump maintains that Hunter was tasked with bringing pressure to bear on the Ukrainian government to comply with those wishes. Others suggest that much work was also done on this issue by Joe Biden himself.
It has been said by some (notably by an anonymous CIA ‘whistleblower’) that when the US president suggested to Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky that his government should investigate Hunter Biden’s role in Ukraine, Trump threated withheld military aid in order to pressurise Zelensky into complying – a quid pro quo.
It seems quite likely that Trump would have done this, but it also seems likely that his potential Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden would have used his son’s position to pressure the Ukrainians, so if this line is pursued, the mud is likely to be flying in both directions.
Once the onset of a formal impeachment investigation of Trump was declared, it seemed to free him to speak more openly (if that is possible), so that on 3 October he stood on the White House lawn and publicly called on Ukraine’s government to start an investigation into Biden Jr.
For good measure, he added that the Chinese should likewise investigate the doings of Hunter Biden when he accompanied his father there, using his official jet on an official trip to China in 2013 to facilitate Hunter in doing his own business.
Hunter was setting up a private equity fund, BHR, and looking for money from Chinese investors. Following questions from the press, the younger Biden admitted that he had made a contact whilst on the trip, but passed this off as a mere social encounter.
At the end of the day, all bourgeois politicians are corrupt beasts in a corrupt zoo. The only thing about Trump is that sometimes he frustrates the plans of the US ruling 0.1 percent, and for that he receives the contempt and hatred of the bourgeoisie and its minions.
Strangely, it also earns him the contempt and hatred of most of what passes for the US left, who are all delirious with joy over the prospect of Trump’s impeachment. Trump is no better (apart from being an occasional unwitting loose cannon) or worse than any other US president, and the American left’s concentrating all their hatred on him personally only compounds the confusion that is rampant among US workers.
When one man is blamed for everything in this way, the winner is the political system of imperialism and the extremely small band of parasites who sit atop the bourgeoisie and direct all.
Bourgeois politicians tell lies; it’s what they do, get used to it. Just as in Britain when remainer MPs scream that Boris tells lies about proroguing parliament and about money for the NHS, they are trying their very best to avoid being called out on the lies they all told following the referendum result – namely, that they would respect the vote!
And what is the process of impeachment except a political tool that can in the right circumstances be used to batter an opponent? It is akin to a coven of witches leading the witch-hunt against another witch for the crime of being a witch.
Workers must let go of the narrative of individuals and concentrate their organisation, their class sense and, eventually, their fire against imperialism and those who use it against us all.