Monday, January 30, 2023
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Doom for a Despot

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By Inderjit Badhwar

Donald Trump infamously stated in the midst of the 2016 election that the loyalty of his supporters is so fierce that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

Last week when Trumpist hordes, one of its tribesmen bedecked in a Viking war dress, attacked the Capitol building in a frenzied bid to overturn the results of a presidential election lost by their chieftain, in which five persons died, his 2016 prophecy was on test.

Even though, at first sight, his immediate vote bank may initially look to be intact, his invincibility and impunity to previous attempts to rein in his extra-constitutional misbehaviour had cracked.

For one thing 10 powerful Republicans in the House—formerly staunch Trump voters—voted against him with the Democratic majority. This was unprecedented bi-partisanship as Trump went down, as the Guinness Book of Records will surely reflect, as the first US president to be impeached twice during a single term in office.

Most people are confused about what impeachment implies. Well, if a president is impeached, they ask, why does he still remain in office? Why is he not booted out? Why is he allowed to run again for office?

Let me explain this process as simply as I can. An impeachment, undertaken by the Lower House (House of Representatives) is akin to an indictment by law enforcement authorities or a Grand Jury, on the basis of which an accused person faces trial and punishment.

In India, it is comparable to the process of filing an FIR or a police charge sheet based on an investigation and evidence which is sent to a trial court. In the US, in the case of high public officials or the president, this trial court is the 100-member US Senate, which will publicly try the impeached person with the prosecutors (“impeachment managers” from the House) making the case.

The Senate then votes for a conviction by a two-thirds majority. The punishment for a president is usually expulsion, loss of protection from related criminal prosecution and of all post-presidential perks and privileges. In addition, the Senate can take another vote for preventing the president from running again for any public office.

In Trump’s case, the Senate trial has not yet begun. No matter what the outcome, there is no gainsaying that a rogue president on the rampage, who bullied his way through America and the world, has had his comeuppance and is spending his last week in office wondering how he will ever be able to obliterate the legacy of shame—as reiterated in scathing denunciations of his character and actions during the Congressional hearings—which will forever be his personal hallmark rather than the memory of any achievement, real or perceived.

One of the most significant and telling denunciations last week—perhaps equal in import to the impeachment—was this letter released to the public by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff of the most powerful military force in the world:

“Jan. 12, 2021 message to U.S. troops from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“MEMORANDUM FOR THE JOINT FORCE

“SUBJECT: MESSAGE TO THE JOINT FORCE

“The American people have trusted the Armed Forces of the United States to protect them and our Constitution for almost 250 years. As we have done throughout our history, the U.S. military will obey lawful orders from civilian leadership, support civil authorities to protect lives and property, ensure public safety in accordance with the law, and remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

“The violent riot in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 was a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process. We mourn the deaths of the two Capitol policemen and others connected to these unprecedented events.

“We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection.

“As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.

“On January 20, 2021, in accordance with the Constitution, confirmed by the states and the courts, and certified by Congress, President-elect Biden will be inaugurated and will become our 46th Commander in Chief.

“To our men and women deployed and at home, safeguarding our country—stay ready, keep your eyes on the horizon, and remain focused on the mission. We honor your continued service in defense “of every American.”

[signed]

Mark A. Milley

General, U.S. Army

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

John E. Hyten

General, U.S. Air Force

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

James C. McConville

General, U.S. Army

Chief of Staff of the Army

David H. Berger

General, U.S. Marine Corps

Commandant of the Marine Corps

Michael M. Gilday

Admiral, U.S. Navy

Chief of Naval Operations

Charles Q. Brown, Jr.

General, U.S. Air Force

Chief of Staff of the Air Force

John W. Raymond

General, U.S. Space Force

Chief of Space Operations

Daniel R. Hokanson

General, U.S. Army

Chief of the National Guard Bureau”

What does it mean? Simple. The armed services are stating their unequivocal commitment to the rule of law and the Constitution rather than to any individual, as well as their backing the election result and the peaceful transfer of power following the people’s verdict at the polls. It is also an admonition to Trump that they will not back any misadventure by him and his street thugs.

Ultimately, last week’s impeachment of the 45th president of the US shows that the rule of law can still be protected from an aspiring, unhinged despot. But despite the fact that 10 House Republicans voted against Donald Trump, he still enjoys a 77 percent approval rating amongst registered Republicans. This shows that the incoming President, Joe Biden, will have to deal with a tenacious grouping of citizens in whom the support for white supremacists is stronger than the constitutional quest for a multi-racial democracy.

Our cover story this week in India Legal (The Trump Era ends, as a Tragedy) is a detailed analysis by one of America’s top journalists, the renowned former The Washington Post foreign editor and vice-president of CNN.

Read Also: The Trump Era ends, as a Tragedy

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