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Trump earned his impeachment

December 19, 2019

Continuing with more of the same from the US president was no longer an option. Democrats were right to charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, says DW's Alexandra von Nahmen.

US House of Representatives vote on an article of impeachment for Donald Trump
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/P. Semansky

The vote was clear. Nearly all Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump. In doing so, they've sent the proceedings against the president to the Senate to try him for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The votes passed despite misgivings on the part of Democratic lawmakers freshly elected in traditionally conservative voting districts. Republicans voted equally united against the charges but were powerless to stop them.

It's a huge success for the Democratic Party and for Trump's adversary Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House. She got her party to fall into line. Democrats didn't flinch. However, they were unable to convince Republicans, who — as always — continue to support the president, as unbelievable as this appears to an outside observer, closing their eyes to his scandalous behavior. We shouldn't have expected anything else. 

A toxic political atmosphere

These impeachment proceedings and the ensuing trial will polarize politics and the American public more than it already is. The atmosphere will become more toxic, the tone even harsher.  And in the end, Donald Trump is likely to be acquitted of all wrongdoing by the Republican-controlled Senate. He will use the impeachment in the 2020 presidential election as ammunition to mobilize his voter base and disparage his opponents.

Alexandra von Nahmen
Alexandra von Nahmen, head of DW's Washington bureau Image: P. Franqui

The consequences for the Democrats could be dramatic: No change of power in the White House, a loss of the majority in the House of Representatives, disappointed voters, a leadership crisis. It could all happen. Maybe.  Still, standing up to Donald Trump was important and the right thing to do.

Trump thinks he is the state

How can the US continue with a president that asks a foreign power — Ukraine — to help him get re-elected? And that just a day after the end of the Mueller investigation for alleged conspiracy with another power — Russia? How can the United States continue with a president who savagely insults his opponents, acts like a dictator and prevents Congress from doing its duty?

If Democratic lawmakers hadn't acted, it would have meant self-destruction for Congress, that venerable American institution. Those not ready to defend the US Constitution have no business taking an oath to it. In this case, Democrats didn't have a choice.

An obligation to intervene

A number of American voters don't seem interested in the fact that their president believes he's above the law. But for those whose job it is to act as a check and balance to the executive branch of government are required to intervene. It's more than empty prattle about conscience and morals if you genuinely believe in duty and responsibility.

What would happen if no one stood up to the bullies and tyrants just because there could be a political cost and little actual opportunity to fundamentally change the situtation? Democrats would have lost all credibility.

A stain on Trump's presidency

Democrats must maintain a delicate balance: Remove Trump from office and at the same time cooperate with the White House and Republicans for the greater good of all Americans.

We can't know how history will view this day. It's unlikely that the impeachment proceedings or Senate trial will change Trump's erratic governing style or curb his disdain for rules and ethics. It's also unclear whether voters will reward the House of Representatives' intervention at the voting booth.

But one thing is for sure:  The presidency of Donald Trump will forever be stained. More of the same was not an option.

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von Nahmen Alexandra Kommentarbild App
Alexandra von Nahmen DW’s Brussels Bureau Chief, focusing on trans-Atlantic relations, security policy, counterterrorism
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