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What We're Watching: Pelosi’s Impeachment Calculus

What We're Watching: Pelosi’s Impeachment Calculus

Buckle Up, Impeachment is On! In a dramatic turn of events, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday that the House of Representatives will formally open an impeachment inquiry of President Trump, claiming he had seriously "violated the Constitution" when he allegedly tried to coerce Ukrainian officials into investigating 2020 Democratic presidential front runner Joe Biden, and his son. Pelosi has heard calls for impeachment for months, but was reluctant to pull the trigger over concerns that the ensuing political circus could hurt the Democrats' 2020 election chances. But as even key moderate Democrats in swing districts came out in support this week, she chose to strike. If a majority in the Democrat-controlled House votes to indict (impeach) Trump for violations of the constitution, he would face a trial in the Senate where two-thirds of the body would need to vote to convict and remove him from office. That's an almost impossibly high hurdle in the GOP-controlled Senate. This process – perhaps the most momentous US political drama in a generation – is sure to be extremely divisive and unpredictable. Buckle up.


UK Rule of Law – Brexit has made British democracy and rule of law the subject of much debate in recent months, and jokes about the UK's political dysfunction have circled the globe. (Your Signal authors might have indulged in one or two.) Brexit supporters say the people have spoken, and that it's undemocratic to try to subvert their will. Brexit critics claim that a prime minister elected only by members of the ruling party wants to push the country toward an extreme form of Brexit that wasn't on the ballot in 2016. Parliament and prime minister(s) have been constantly at odds. But on Tuesday, the 11 justices of the UK's supreme court ruled unanimously that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had violated the law by shutting down parliament in a time of national crisis—and, crucially, the prime minister accepted the court's authority. Whatever one's view of Brexit, and however many crises follow, Tuesday was a good day for checks and balances and the rule of law.

Nuclear Annihilation – This simulation of a nuclear war between the US and Russia is worth a few minutes of your time, if you can stomach it. Developed by Princeton researchers based on "real force postures, targets, and fatality estimates," it shows, in mesmerizing yet horrifying detail, (and with exquisite sound design) how a conventional military conflict in Europe could spiral out of control, provoking a tactical nuclear exchange and then an all-out nuclear war that kills or maims more than 90 million people in a matter of hours. It's a reminder that a generation after the end of the Cold War, there are still roughly 16,000 nukes pointed directly at military and civilian targets around the world, many of them ready to launch at a moment's notice. In addition, the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the US and Russia this year has put new tactical weapons in play, raising the risk of an accident or miscalculation that leads to catastrophe.

What We're Ignoring:

Russian Military Boasts — Ever ready to challenge (at least rhetorically) the superiority of the West and weapons, the Kremlin responded to attacks on Saudi oil refineries last week with a sales pitch for its own S-400 anti-missile systems. We're ignoring this Moscow bravado because a) there is no way Riyadh will anger the US as Turkey did by purchasing this Russian air-defense system, especially when the Saudis are on the front lines of escalating hostilities between the US and Iran, and b) a walrus just took out a Russian navy boat. Sure, it was filled with researchers from the Russian Geographical Society (who thankfully emerged unharmed), but still.

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Not everyone celebrates the US holiday of Thanksgiving, but we've all got something to be grateful for in this awful year, right? So as Americans gather around the table — or the Zoom — to give thanks on Thursday, here's what a few world leaders are grateful for at the moment.

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With President Trump and most of the Republican Party still refusing to acknowledge that Joe Biden has won the election, it seems pretty likely that the partisan gridlock that has paralyzed Washington for at least the past four years is not going anywhere any time soon. How will President-elect Biden deal with Donald Trump once the latter is, eventually, out of the White House? And how will Biden deal with Mitch McConnell and a Republican party hellbent on opposing him? "If you get past the theater for a second," suggests Biden biographer and New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos, "you see that there is something deeply different in the relationship that Biden has with McConnell that Obama never had with McConnell." Osnos' conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured on GZERO World.

Watch the GZERO World episode: What you still may not know about Joe

Hong Kong pro-democracy activists plead guilty: The name Joshua Wong has become synonymous with Hong Kong's once-dynamic pro-democracy movement. But the democrats' momentum has all but fizzled since Beijing imposed a draconian national security law back in May, outlawing secessionist activity and criminalizing foreign influence in Hong Kong. Now Wong, who was instrumental in the 2014 pro-democracy "Umbrella Movement," is pleading guilty in a Hong Kong court to organizing and taking part in pro-democracy protests that gripped the semi-autonomous city for much of 2019. He and his two co defendants — all of them in their 20's — have been remanded until sentencing, scheduled for December 2, and are likely to face prison terms of various lengths. Wong, for his part, said he decided to switch his plea to "guilty" after consulting with his lawyer. (Knowing that the trial would mostly be a sham, the trio decided to plead guilty in order to speed up the process, according to reports.) This internationally watched court case comes as Beijing has increasingly cracked down on Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp in recent months, prompting the US to impose sanctions on Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam, and several Western governments to terminate special economic relationship with the city. To date, there have been more than 2,000 prosecutions linked to last year's protests.

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The person a US president taps to assume the coveted role of secretary of state, the nation's top diplomat, says a lot about that president's foreign policy ambitions and global vision.

Indeed, the selection of Henry Kissinger (Nixon and Ford), James Baker (George H.W. Bush), Hillary Clinton (Obama) and Rex Tillerson (Trump) to head the State Department, provided an early window into the foreign policy priorities — or lack thereof — of their respective bosses.

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