Trump impeachment 2.0

President Trump speaks to supporters at a rally in Washington before an angry mob stormed the US Capitol building. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

After last week's storming of the US Capitol building, we asked whether Congress would act to hold President Trump responsible for inciting the insurrection to overturn the result of the 2020 election. We now know the answer: House Democrats on Monday unveiled an article of impeachment against Trump.

But though the House will vote in the coming days to begin the process, Trump — the first US president to be impeached twice — will no longer be in office by the time a trial begins in the Senate. So, why do it? Here are a few arguments for and against.


In favor. First, whatever happens in the Senate, impeachment by the House would make it clear to future presidents that encouraging violence against the government comes with consequences. If Congress were to avoid taking forceful action in an extreme case like this, the boundaries of acceptable political behavior might expand dramatically.

Second, impeaching Trump can lead to a vote to bar him from election to any federal office in the future. While conviction requires a two-thirds vote from senators, a simple majority could then ban the president from running for president in 2024, stripping him of some of his power over the Republican Party. A permanent ban would be favored openly by Democrats and maybe a few Republicans who fear Trump would freeze the 2024 GOP race by teasing a second run.

Against. First, unless Trump commits some other highly provocative act, impeachment will very likely fail again in the Senate and Trump will be acquitted. Although more Republican senators may support Trump's conviction this time, Democrats don't have the minimum 67 votes needed to remove him from office. For Trump's supporters, a second acquittal would vindicate Trump's actions, restore some of his standing within the GOP, and could even encourage more violence.

Second, despite the gravity of last week's events, impeachment remains an extremely divisive issue among Americans. Roughly the same number of Republican voters oppose it now compared to when Trump was first impeached in late 2019. Expect the GOP to argue that Americans are tired of red vs blue, and that it's time to "heal" — an argument similar to the one Gerald Ford made in pardoning Richard Nixon in 1974.

Third, impeachment is a big gamble for the incoming Biden administration at a time when — with slim majorities in the House and Senate — it'll need to deploy much of its political capital to get crucial legislation passed on pandemic relief measures like additional stimulus checks and to step up vaccinations. With the US currently reporting more than 3,500 COVID-19 deaths and upwards of 200,000 new cases each day, the public health crisis is a more urgent problem (and Biden may need a few Republican votes to offset possible resistance by moderate Democrats to some of his big-spending plans).

This may take a while. Though the process starts today, it'll end whenever it suits the Democrats, because they can decide when to forward the case to the Senate. Democratic House majority whip James Clyburn hinted on Sunday that the House may hold off on sending the article of impeachment to the Senate for weeks, so President-elect Joe Biden and the new Congress can focus on an ambitious legislative agenda during Biden's first 100 days in office.

Either way, the fate of impeachment 2.0 depends on Trump. His behavior in the coming days will determine whether Democrats can persuade enough Republican senators to convict Trump of "high crimes and misdemeanors." If the president — recently deplatformed from social media — keeps his cool, momentum toward action may recede. But if he tries to incite more violence from his supporters, or tests the limits of presidential power by pardoning himself, the political temperature in Washington will turn even hotter.

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In recent days, Northern Ireland has seen some of its worst street violence in over a decade. The anger has subsided a bit this week, but post-Brexit fears leave many uncertain about their future in a deeply divided land with a long history of political violence between Irish republicans and UK unionists.

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Iran has vowed to avenge Sunday's attack on its Natanz nuclear facility. Tehran blames Israel, which — as in the past — has neither confirmed nor denied it was responsible. And all this happens just days after indirect talks on US plans to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed in Vienna. What the Iranians do now will determine the immediate future of those negotiations, a Biden administration priority.

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The end of "forever" in Afghanistan: The Biden administration says it'll withdraw all remaining US troops in Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that prompted Washington to invade the country in the first place. It's unclear how the withdrawal will affect American plans to steer intra-Afghan peace talks in the right direction under the terms of a peace agreement reached by the Trump administration and the Taliban in May 2020. Trump promised to pull out next month as long as the former al-Qaida hosts kept their end of the bargain by not launching deadly attacks (spoiler alert: they have not). Biden's move honors his campaign pledge to end a "forever war" that has claimed more than 2,300 American lives and cost the US Treasury almost $1 trillion since 2001. However, critics fear that a hasty departure could leave the Afghans helpless to prevent the Taliban from returning to power, rendering the entire mission not only expensive, but ultimately pointless.

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week on World In 60: J&J vaccine woes, Blinken warns China, Fukushima water and a large rabbit.

How will the pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect the overall pandemic fight in the United States?

Yeah. Right at it, right? Well, we heard that the FDA has suspended vaccines from J&J because of blood clots. They found six in seven million cases. It's kind of like the suspension of AstraZeneca in Europe. It's likely only going to last for a few days. It's a very small percentage of the total number of vaccines that are being jabbed right now into the arms of Americans. It's not going to really slow America's ability to get everyone vaccinated, but it is going to create more vaccine hesitancy. People at the margins will say, "Is this safe? They said it was fine. Now they're saying it's not okay." I understand why there's enormous caution on the part of the FDA, but I wish, wish, wish the communications had been a little softer around all of this. Also will be a problem in terms of export, as J&J is going to be a piece of that. And again, others around the world will say, "Well, if I don't get Moderna, if I don't get Pfizer, I'm not sure I want to take it at all." So all of this is negative news, though I would still say the United States this year is looking really, really good among major economies in dealing with pandemic.

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750 million: While struggling with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world right now, India has approved Russia's Sputnik V COVID vaccine. Moscow has a deal in place to produce 750 million doses of the shot in India.

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In recent weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna have announced early phases of vaccine trials in children, and Johnson & Johnson also plans to start soon. If you know a kid who wants to learn about vaccines, how they work, why we need them, this story is just what the doctor ordered.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week and I've got your Quick Take and thought I would talk a little bit about where we are with Iran. One of the Biden administration's promises upon election was to get the Americans back into the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal. As of last week, negotiations are formally restarted, and pretty quickly, in Vienna, they're not direct. The Americans and Iranians are both there, but they're being intermediated by the Europeans because they're not yet ready to show that they can talk directly to each other. That's Iran being cautious in the run-up to their presidential election coming this summer. But the movement is there. So far the talk has largely been about sequencing the Iranian government, saying that all of the sanctions need to be removed before they're willing to go back into the deal, because the Americans after all, unilaterally withdrew from a deal that the Iranians were indeed adhering to, and the inspections did confirm that.

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