Impeachment comes as a moment of ignominy that the United States President Donald Trump has to live with, though he is unlikely to be removed from office. The Republican-controlled Senate is bound to bail him out during the trial next month. The Democrats, who have pulled off a historic vote in the House of Representatives to impeach him on the twin grounds of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in its investigation, have a much greater challenge in the days ahead: Containing the hysteric support that an embattled President could gather by playing the victimhood card. The political drama surrounding the impeachment proceedings, which bitterly divided the nation, may well turbocharge the maverick Republican leader’s bid for a second term in the next year’s presidential election. Taking the impeachment process to its logical end will require a two-thirds majority in Senate, a highly unlikely scenario. The voting in the House of Representatives proceeded entirely on party lines and there is no reason to believe that it will be any different when Senators cast their votes. But, the impeachment process serves a function that goes beyond next year’s electoral test. It asserts the supremacy of law in a political system imperilled by a leader whose words and actions often crossed the borders of decency and the established norms. The impeachment must not be seen as a partisan move against the President but a defence of the foundational principles of the country. The last three years of Trump’s presidency has been marked by toxicity, brazenness and bigotry, be it his remarks against immigrants or his foreign policies dealing with Iran and China.
The impeachment proceedings stemmed from Trump’s attempt to push Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to probe unsubstantiated corruption allegations against Joe Biden, former Vice-President and the 2020 White House contender. The President is accused of dangling two things as bargaining chips to Ukraine — withholding $400m of military aid to Ukraine that had already been allocated by Congress, and a White House meeting for Ukraine’s President. This would all amount to an abuse of presidential power, using the office for personal political gain and to the detriment of national security. Ukraine was using that money in its ongoing conflict with Russia. Trump has become the third President in American history to have been impeached, after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. The Democrats felt that the Ukraine affair contained the vital ingredients of ‘judicable crime and misdemeanour’ – the constitutional threshold for impeachment. The impeachment is bound to have a profound impact on the election campaign ahead. While it galvanises the Right to rally around him, the opponents will harp on the stigma of impeachment that he carries into the campaign for a second term.