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.

Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick joins That Made All the Difference podcast to discuss how his career as a surgeon influenced his work as an educator, administrator and champion of underserved communities, and why he believes we may be on the cusp of the next "golden generation."

Listen to the latest podcast now.

It's been a bad week at the office for President Trump. Not only have coronavirus cases in the US been soaring, but The New York Times' bombshell report alleging that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan has continued to make headlines. While details about the extent of the Russian bounty program — and how long it's been going on for — remain murky, President Trump now finds himself in a massive bind on this issue.

Here are three key questions to consider.

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Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, discusses technology industry news today:

Do some of the Facebook's best features, like the newsfeed algorithm or groups, make removing hate speech from the platform impossible?

No, they do not. But what they do do is make it a lot easier for hate speech to spread. A fundamental problem with Facebook are the incentives in the newsfeed algorithm and the structure of groups make it harder for Facebook to remove hate speech.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Yes, still in the middle of coronavirus, but thought I'd give you a couple of my thoughts on Russia. Part of the world that I cut my teeth on as a political scientist, way back in the eighties and nineties. And now Putin is a president for life, or at least he gets to be president until 2036, gets another couple of terms. The constitutional amendments that he reluctantly allowed to be voted on across Russia, passed easily, some 76% approval. And so now both in China and in Russia, term limits get left behind all for the good of the people, of course. So that they can have the leaders that they truly deserve. Yes, I'm being a little sarcastic here. It's sad to see. It's sad to see that the Americans won the Cold War in part, not just because we had a stronger economy and a stronger military, but actually because our ideas were better.

Because when those living in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Block looked at the West, and looked at the United States, they saw that our liberties, they saw that our economy, was something that they aspired to and was actually a much better way of giving opportunities to the average citizen, than their own system afforded. And that helped them to rise up against it.

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Jon Lieber, managing director for the United States at Eurasia Group, provides his perspective on US politics:

How likely is bipartisan action against Russia in light of Taliban bounty reports?

I think it's probably unlikely. One of the challenges here is that there's some conflict of the intelligence and anything that touches on the issue of President Trump and Russia is extremely toxic for him. Republicans have so far been tolerant of that and willing to stop any new sanctions coming. I think unless the political situation or the allegations get much worse or more obvious, that stalemate probably remains.

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