Other Angles on the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump

Other Angles on the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump

The impeachment of President Trump has now begun. Investigators will now try to determine whether he tried to pressure Ukraine's president into providing damning information on former US Vice President (and current presidential candidate) Joe Biden and his son Hunter in order to help Trump win the 2020 election.


For an excellent explanation of the basics of impeachment, click here for a story by Gabrielle Debinski. To better understand what Trump is accused of, click here for the unclassified "whistleblower" letter.

But for a couple of angles you might not see elsewhere, let's look at the impact of impeachment on the Democrats running for president and on President Trump's foreign policy.

First, this is not a good story for Joe Biden. While Biden was Barack Obama's vice president, his son Hunter served on the board of Ukraine's largest private gas company and was reportedly paid up to $50,000 per month for his services.

The impeachment investigation may never prove that Joe or Hunter Biden committed crimes, but a potential conflict-of-interest story like this one will weigh heavily on Biden's bid to win his party's presidential nomination. Some Democratic Party voters will doubt Biden's honesty and move toward a candidate they trust more. Others may decide that Biden is no longer the person most likely to beat Trump.

Either way, the impeachment process will damage Biden's candidacy.

Second, how will impeachment affect US foreign policy? When the US launched cruise missiles at suspected al‑Qaeda sites in Afghanistan and Sudan in August 1998 in retaliation for the bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania two weeks earlier, critics accused then-President Bill Clinton of using military action to distract the public from impeachment investigations. It's a reminder that military actions always face scrutiny and skepticism when presidents are in political trouble, and some warn that Trump might launch an attack somewhere to change the political subject.

But Trump's often-expressed aversion to military commitments appears to make this unlikely. In fact, impeachment could make Trump more conciliatory on some foreign-policy issues. The closing of huge deals is also central to Trump's brand, and the need to have something to show voters for his confrontation with China will only become more intense. Any president up for re-election wants a strong election-year stock market, and deals that ease trade tension, particularly with China, might be just the thing. There are some who say impeachment might help advance the NAFTA 2.0 trade deal (USMCA) if Democrats will bring it to a vote to show impeachment is not all they care about.

Some foreign leaders might welcome this. The president is about to be deeply preoccupied. That's good if you're someone who prefers that Trump stay out of your country's business. China's Xi Jinping is probably content to see Trump under pressure and in need of a signature accomplishment. Mexico's President Lopez Obrador might be pleased to see Trump turn his vitriolic attention toward Democrats. European leaders can live without more trade threats and criticism of NATO. Iran's leaders will relish Trump's frustration and hope for a new US president following the 2020 election.

But others may regret his distraction. Kim Jong-un might feel that Trump's engagement and willingness to negotiate with him is the best thing to come from the US in a long time. The Saudis want to keep Trump's mind on the Middle East and potential threats from Iran. Britain's Boris Johnson, Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu might want more of his active personal support.

Putin might be happy either way. If impeachment strengthens Trump, then Russia's president can count on future meetings with the only American ally he can expect for the foreseeable future. If Trump is hobbled, Putin can pop up some popcorn to enjoy the ugly American spectacle.

Spare a thought for Volodymyr Zelensky. Ukraine's president can expect a rough year. Ukraine needs US political and financial support in order to hold ground against Russia and boost Ukraine's economy. That's why Zelensky needs good relations with both Republicans and Democrats.

But as the object of alleged pressure from Trump to investigate Biden, Zelensky will be at the center of the impeachment inquiry. That means he'll face pressure from Trump not to say anything incriminating and pressure from Democrats who will want him to do precisely that.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

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Get insights on the latest news about emerging trends in cyberspace from Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center and former European Parliamentarian:

This week we talk about one of my favorite topics, regulation. Laws are often framed as a barrier to innovation and not always recognized as a key enabler of freedoms and the protection of rights. But what's more is that regulation is a process, and one that can have tons of different outcomes. So, being in favor or against regulation doesn't mean anything. Except that those who oppose any changes are apparently benefiting from the status quo.

Is the world at a tipping point when it comes to regulating big tech?

And I would say absolutely. The outsized power of big tech is recognized more broadly because the harms are so blatantly clear. Harms to democracy, public health, but also to fairness in the economy are all related to the outsized power of unaccountable and under-regulated big tech. Now, what's significant is that this debate has finally hit home in the United States after it was already recognized as a problem in many other parts of the world.

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Do we spend too much time thinking about our own carbon footprints and not enough time thinking about bigger factors? Climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert acknowledges it's necessary for individuals to make changes in the way they live, but that isn't the number one priority.

"What would you do to try to move this battleship in a new direction? It requires public policy levers. And it requires … some pretty serious legislation." Ian Bremmer spoke with Kolbert, an award-winning journalist and author and staff writer at The New Yorker, on a new episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

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Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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