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Will Trump’s impeachment trial be “fair”?

Will Trump’s impeachment trial be “fair”?

Donald Trump just became the third president in US history to be impeached.

In a vote along party lines, the House of Representatives on Wednesday approved impeachment on two counts: abuse of power, for Trump's efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating his political rival Joe Biden, and obstruction of Congress, for preventing key White House witnesses from testifying in the impeachment hearings.


Democrats say the move was a legitimate defense of the Constitution. Republicans say it's a sham attempt to remove a president against the will of the people. Trump, for his part, says it's a modern day Salem witch trial (the current mayor of Salem, for the record, disagrees.)

So what comes now?
The House will send the impeachment bill to the Senate, where Trump will be put on trial, probably in January. A small team of House Democrats will lead the prosecution, the Senate will act as a jury, and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will preside.

A two-thirds supermajority of votes would be needed to convict Trump of the impeachable offenses and remove him from office. Republicans control the Senate by a 53-47 majority, meaning that 20 GOP senators would have to turn against the president in order to oust him. With Trump's approval rating among Republican voters currently above 90 percent, that outcome is about as likely as a snowman winning the Dakar Rally.

Will it be "fair"?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said that he's coordinating closely with the White House's defense team on how and when to hold the trial, and that he won't call any additional witnesses. Chief Justice Roberts could rule that McConnell has to, but precedent suggests that's unlikely.)

Democrats say this politicizes justice, and McConnell says that's exactly right: Impeachment has the structure of a criminal proceeding, but the Constitution intended this process to be political, not judicial. And since he's politically on the side of the president, that's how the cookie crumbles.

How does the public view impeachment right now?
In the latest polls, between 44 and 50 percent of respondents said Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Some of the surveys registered a slight decline in support for impeachment and removal over the past month. Regardless, this is just about as polarized an environment as you can imagine: half the country wants the president removed from office, and the other half doesn't. In that sense, it's like virtually every other question involving Donald Trump.

Will all this affect the 2020 election?
It's too early to say how impeachment will affect people's choices 11 months from now. Democrats hope that the impeachment shows they're willing to hold Trump accountable, and they'll look to draw on the impeachment revelations throughout the 2020 campaign. Trump, meanwhile, is confident that beating the rap will be the main story heading into the 2020 homestretch.

A more immediate question is whether the timing of the trial affects the field of Democrat contenders. As we wrote last week, Mitch McConnell has a delicious opportunity to mess with the primary campaign schedules of leading contenders Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others, who have to be in Washington for the Senate trial rather than out shaking hands with voters in early voting states. But it's a move that could also backfire against Trump -- learn more here.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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Afghanistan frustrated nineteenth-century British imperialists for 40 years, and ejected the Soviet army in 1989 after a bloody decade there. And though American and NATO forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001 over its support for al-Qaeda, there's no good reason for confidence that nearly 20 years of occupation have brought lasting results for security and development across the country.

But… could China succeed where other outsiders have failed – and without a costly and risky military presence? Is the promise of lucrative trade and investment enough to ensure a power-sharing deal among Afghanistan's warring factions?

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

Is there a military coup ongoing in Armenia?

Well, it isn't a military coup as of yet, but it's not far from it either. This is the turmoil that is resulting from the war with Azerbaijan, which Armenia took a large death loss. What happened was that the head of the armed forces asked for the prime minister to resign. That was not quite a coup, but not very far from it. Now, the prime minister sacked the head of the armed forces, there's considerable uncertainty. Watch the space.

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In the fall of 2019, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic would change the world, Ian Bremmer asked Dr. Fauci what kept him up at night and he described a "a pandemic-like respiratory infection." Fast-forward to late February 2021 and Dr. Fauci tells Ian, "I think we are living through much of that worst nightmare." Dr. Fauci returns to GZERO World to take stock of the nightmare year and to paint a picture of what the end of the pandemic could look like—and when it could finally arrive.

Catch the full episode of GZERO World, where Dr. Fauci discusses the latest in vaccine roll out, schools re-openings, and plenty more, on US public television stations nationwide, beginning Friday, February 26. Check local listings.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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