Quick Take: President Trump should be removed from office

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the beginning of this extraordinary week, with the United States dominating international news, and the way we think about the future of the global order. You can say we dodged a bullet last week though. We are certainly not through the political crisis in the United States. Certainly, I also think about how it could have been a lot worse. How close we were to the vice president, his family, members of Congress, getting injured or killed. Frankly in terms of the election, if the house had turned to the GOP, and it was close to doing so, how the election response to a Biden win could have been contested much more easily, and you then have indeed a constitutional crisis. Or if the vote was much closer than it was, as opposed to the seven million and significant electoral count difference, about how the president could have been more successful, in his consistent efforts to overturn the outcome.


So, no, we didn't have a constitutional crisis. But with the sitting president that was prepared to call a free and fair election rigged under any circumstances, it could have been possible. Now, yes, Joe Biden gets inaugurated on January 20th, and certainly we all hope that it's going to be as safe and smooth as possible. Though I don't think anyone can come close to guaranteeing that. The country remains massively divided. The potential for violence has gone way up. Weaponized disinformation, that's basically what has happened. From the top, the very top of the government. People now believe that the election was stolen. That it was taken away from them. And they believe that because President Trump has been actively promoting that fiction. And to be clear, if it were true that the election had been stolen, that would be something that people legitimately revolt over, all over the world and in the United States. The fact that it's not true, the fact that that disinformation was weaponized, is what is truly unprecedented in the United States.

And why in my view, President Trump should be removed from office for that, for that. Yes, impeached a second time, it will certainly happen this week. Will he be convicted for it? Almost certainly not. In part because you can say there's no time, but in part because there isn't support for it among Republicans in the Senate. Most GOP House members say, "No." Most GOP senators say, "No." Roy Blunt, the Republican Senator from Missouri perhaps said it best or worst. He said that Trump touched the hot stove, and won't do it again. Senator Blunt, that is not what President Trump did. He actually turned the gas on high, and he got as many people to touch the stove as humanly possible. And those people are still out there, and they still believe, the majority of them, that the election was stolen. They're still angry.

Trump has lost some of his supporters over the course of his actions in the past weeks, as he should. But certainly not all of them. And those that are with him, are going to be even more strongly with him because they truly believe that they have had their rights usurped. And a narrow group but a real group, will become violent as a consequence of that. And we saw that play out so very tragically in our nation's Capitol on January 6th. A challenging time for the United States. Yes, an acknowledgement of a new administration coming in. And I have seen that from the majority of Republican leaders in the country. But I want to be clear. We have to understand that there was incitement. And I watched a bunch of Fox News to see how they were covering all of this. And they're clearly sort of trying to balance between a level of anger, and decrying the violence that occurred, but also keeping the Republican Party together. And that creates some pretty difficult outcomes.

Like not saying that in the speech that Trump gave, that we're going to have to fight much harder, or Mike Pence is going to come through for us, or we'll never take our country back with weakness, and that supporters must walk down to the Capitol. All things that Trump said in the morning of January 6th. The biggest impact of what Trump has done is not from the political process as a consequence. The biggest impact is from the social media companies who have de-platformed Trump. Have removed him from their services. Which means that Trump is permanently, meaning for the rest of his life, taken off of Twitter where he had almost 90 million followers. He's taken off of Facebook. He's taken off of Pinterest for reasons I can't quite fathom.

Now I want to be clear. I think the appropriate place to respond to what Trump has done is in Congress. It is not the CEOs of individual social media companies. So Trump's influence is power, is going to be diminished radically, because he can no longer have a megaphone. And in fact I don't think he would have become president, if it wasn't for that megaphone. In the same way that Bolsonaro in Brazil doesn't become president without Facebook, and Salvini in Italy doesn't get to drive his league, if it isn't for Instagram and Facebook. But Angela Merkel the German chancellor came out and she said that it was wrong for Facebook and Twitter to de-platform Trump. And she is no fan of Trump. And I am sympathetic to what she had to say. There should be clear rules and norms that apply, and standards, that apply to everyone on a platform. And when they're broken, they should be taken up accordingly.

It should not be arbitrary. It should not be a response to the mob suddenly saying, "Oh my God! You have to take Trump down." Or the workers saying, "Oh my God! You have to take Trump down." That is not the way forward for a representative democracy. At the least my view would have been, take him down for a period of time until after the inauguration. So that the most dangerous period of violence has diffused, God willing, and then make very clear what the standards are that if they're broken, then he can be permanently de-platformed. You can put one person, you can put 10 people on watching tweets as they come up, and ensure that they don't. And if they do, boom that's it. But I think this is it's going to cause more problems longer term than it actually solves.

And I worry that we live now in a country where the most important decisions about the most powerful political figure in the United States, have been taken. Have determined by a very small group of very wealthy individuals, that have no accountability or responsibility to the democratic political process. And I worry about that. I also worry about the fact that January 6th is a day that will live on in our history, our collective history in the United States, but it won't be a collective memory. I think that for many Americans it will be an extraordinary tragedy. A day when the political institutions of the US were damaged. And I fear that for many other Americans, less, fewer, but nonetheless significant numbers of Americans, it will be a day of patriotism. A day where they stood up against the deep state, and against the efforts of American leaders and wealthy people to undermine the will of the people.

That's a lie. It's wrong. It didn't happen. But so many Americans have been allowed to believe that, have been told to believe that, and too many business models have allowed the expansion of that belief. I think that the major issue I have with the social media companies today, is that their business model as it stands, is incompatible with the healthy functioning of a civil society. What you need are for the people on the platform to be real people. Not bots, not fake people, not anonymous trolls from other countries that have been set up. No, no, they need to be real people. And real people will engage in real ways with each other. I think a business platform that monetizes fake people, and does not allow us to determine the difference between the two, is a massive problem. And if that had been addressed years ago, we never would be in the situation we are in right now.

As they say, you kick the can down the road, the problem gets to be greater. And there has been an enormous amount of can kicking, both in terms of the delegitimization of American political institutions, in terms of enablers around Trump continuing to enable his accesses in the past years, and also of the media and social media companies to not address the damage that they have been doing and they are responsible for. Civil society in the United States all in service of the almighty dollar. Dollar is doing very well by the way. Right now the market is doing very well by the way. Civil society is not. At some point that's unsustainable.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody and happy Monday. Back in the office, getting a little cool. So I've got my sweater going on. It's the first time I've had a sweater on. What do you do with that? Discussing fashion, as I talk to you about what is on my mind this week?

And what's on my mind this week, Facebook. Facebook is on my mind. It's a tough week for Facebook. There are all sorts of whistleblowers out there. There's testimony going on. There's calls for regulation. Everybody seems unhappy with them. Indeed, you even got the government relations types, Nick Clegg, who I've known for a long time back when he was a policymaker in the UK saying that the headlines are going to be rough, but we're are going to get through it. But I will say, first of all, I'm kind of skeptical that any of this goes anywhere in terms of impact on how Facebook actually operates.

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Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats from 10 Western countries "persona non-grata" after the group — which includes the US, France, and Germany — called on Ankara to release Osman Kavala, a Parisian-born Turkish businessman who's been held in jail since 2017 but hasn't been charged with a crime. Erdogan says that Kavala was involved in an attempted coup against the government in 2016. This latest move is a sign of Turkey's authoritarian drift in recent years, which has seen Erdogan's government increasingly crack down on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's increasingly fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad between Washington and Ankara after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians in 2019. The Council of Europe (the continent's leading human rights organization) had previously warned that Ankara has until November to release Kavala or it would impose "infringements," though it's unclear what those would be.

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ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

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