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Above: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (right) has launched an impeachment inquiry against Trump/Photos: UNI

By Kenneth Tiven

A single day—Wednesday, 2 October— demonstrates what a strange and bewildering experience the impeachment process is becoming for the president, for the Congress, for the people of the USA and in fact for an entire world left wondering about the American political system and its elected leader.

The morning started with a House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threatening the White House with subpoenas if they do not turn over requested documents. As well came the allegation that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was bullying state department officials and refusing to comply with subpoenas issued for them. When Pompeo was a Congressman he mercilessly bullied witnesses in the Benghazi probe give years ago.

Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff objected to President Donald Trump’s attacks on the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Trump took to Twitter with profanity, writing…

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Above: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (right) has launched an impeachment inquiry against Trump/Photos: UNI

By Kenneth Tiven

A single day—Wednesday, 2 October— demonstrates what a strange and bewildering experience the impeachment process is becoming for the president, for the Congress, for the people of the USA and in fact for an entire world left wondering about the American political system and its elected leader.

The morning started with a House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threatening the White House with subpoenas if they do not turn over requested documents. As well came the allegation that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was bullying state department officials and refusing to comply with subpoenas issued for them. When Pompeo was a Congressman he mercilessly bullied witnesses in the Benghazi probe give years ago.

Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff objected to President Donald Trump’s attacks on the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Trump took to Twitter with profanity, writing they are  “wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT.” He called Schiff a “lowlife” with Pelosi “incapable” of working with him on other issues including prescription drug costs and a new North American free trade agreement.

It got even stranger later in the day when Trump’s behavior at a news conference with Finland’s president took on the appearance of a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch.

Trump claimed, without any factual basis, that Schiff, whom he called “shifty’ had helped write the whistleblower complaint. It was a rambling sometimes incoherent display by a very angry Trump. The New York Times had reported a day earlier that the whistleblower had sought advice from the committee’s lawyers worried that his complaint was being buried by the white House.

The report states that the committee chairman, Schiff, was later made aware of the nature of the allegations but was not given any information on the whistleblower’s identity. Trump’s wildly unsubstantiated claims were followed by Trump indicating he plans to personally sue people involved in the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Invited by a reporter to name names he replied that his personal attorney Rudy Guiliani was exploring the possibility.

It was more manic than the text suggests.  Trump again claimed he was a stable genius and that the transcript of his conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky was perfect and accurate, even though it stated on the very first page that it was not in fact a transcript but a recreation of the call.

In that call, Trump pressured Zelensky—I need a favor—to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential Democratic opponent in the 2020 campaign. Around the same time, Trump was withholding nearly $400 million of military assistance to Ukraine.

All of this demonstrates how incapable Trump is of learning—either facts or lessons—and how dangerous that is. Trump’s refusal to accept the truth about Ukrainian hacking (which did not happen) arose from his refusal to accept the truth about Russian hacking (which did happen). That is, Trump’s obsession with Ukraine and former Vice President Biden began as a search for vindication over allegations of foreign interference in the 2016 election, and led directly to Trump seeking political dirt to use in 2020, which brings us to Impeachment.

Repeatedly Trump attacked individual reporters for their questions and accused news media organizations of fake news and corruption. The president of Finland appeared stoic as well as uncomfortable to be caught in a media scrum in the White House.

There are multiple threads to the impeachment story as well as the apparent effort by the White House to find a way to discredit the Russian interference charges contained in the Mueller special probe. The US Attorney General has been travelling the globe—Italy and England— apparently seeking Intelligence officials who might help prove Trump’s point that here was no Russian interference in 2016.

The Justice Department is the law office for the Constitution of the USA, not the personal law firm of the President.  Nick Akerman, a former special prosecutor on the Watergate Impeachment that forced President Nixon to resign in 1974 said, “The idea of an attorney general running around and doing this stuff is absurd. That is not what an attorney general does,” Akerman added,  “It’s usually high-level policy — making sure the U.S. attorneys offices are going after the right kinds of cases, not going to foreign governments and trying to get them to undermine the intelligence community’s findings on the Russia investigation.”

Watergate-era Attorney General John Mitchell served 19 months in prison for obstruction and perjury charges related to the scandal. More recently, George Bush-era Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was forced to resign after presiding over the firing of U.S. attorneys who were politically independent.

In an age where binge watching television series has become the new normal, this endless back and forth between sides related to the conduct of the American leader may not seem so strange, especially since the president had been a TV reality show personality before winning this position.  It certainly impacts on the ability of the government to govern, but maybe that is the desired effect.

— The writer has worked in senior positions at The Washington Post, NBC, ABC and CNN and also consults for several Indian channels

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