Home ASIA POLITICS Diane Francis: There may be no escape for Donald Trump this time as he gets caught in repeat offence

Diane Francis: There may be no escape for Donald Trump this time as he gets caught in repeat offence

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Diane Francis: There may be no escape for Donald Trump this time as he gets caught in repeat offence

It is difficult to imagine how President Donald Trump — the Houdini of politics — can wriggle out of this one. But as he tries, the rest of the world must wait because Trump is now a “lame duck” for as long as the impeachment process continues, which may take months.

Unlike previous Trump scandals, this one is potentially fatal, in large measure because it’s a repeat offence and can also be encapsulated in a simple sentence: Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine then asked its president to dig up dirt about Joe Biden’s son (who had worked there) to help him win re-election in 2020.

This is what Trump and his team did in 2016 by accepting Russian help.

Worse than a shakedown, this “Ukraine for Gain” scheme involves a high-level cover-up and the shuffling out of esteemed, experienced government officials to pave the way.

Here’s the chronology:

April 21 — Ukraine elects Volodymyr Zelensky, a young anti-corruption reformer, as president.

April 25 — Biden announces his candidacy and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani says he’ll go to Ukraine to meet with its president to get the country to investigate Biden. He lobbies Ukrainian officials to get an investigation going.

May 6 — The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who objects to this, is removed.

May 20 — The inauguration of Ukraine’s president was to be attended by Vice President Mike Pence, but he is told by Trump not to attend.

July 18 — $401 million allocated by Congress to Ukraine to right its war against Putin is delayed. Zelensky is unable to get a one-on-one meeting with Trump as he had secured with other heads of state in Paris, Berlin and Brussels.

July 25 — Trump calls Zelensky to ask a favour.

Aug. 12 — A whistleblower complaint is filed but not passed along automatically to congressional committees as stipulated in law. The White House is notified.

Sept. 11 — The hold on Ukraine military aid is lifted.

Sept. 25 — The whistleblower complaint is released to the public.

The seven-page complaint outlines that the President “abused the power of his office” and is written by one protected, anonymous individual but cites that “multiple sources” are concerned about his actions. Another official testified before the House Intelligence Committee that pertinent transcripts and information are stored in a special computer system which is supposed to be used to protect covert operations.

“This is the cover-up,” said Nancy Pelosi.

Thus, another episode in the Trump reality show is underway, but this one directly affects some senior members of the Trump team, the economy, business and geopolitics.

The president’s stature has been damaged and this will make a difference at gatherings such as the G20, his negotiations with other heads of state, or his trade war with China. The calculus has changed and some countries, such as China, may maintain a hard line, rather than yield concessions, in the hopes that Trump is turfed.

The last time a president faced impeachment was during the presidency of Bill Clinton, and the fallout was negative. He was preoccupied full-time for nearly two years with defending himself firstly against allegations and secondly against impeachment. The House voted for his impeachment, but the Senate, which tries the President on such charges, failed to reach two-thirds majority to oust him. Clinton may have been eventually acquitted, but he was not vindicated by anyone.

Nixon was never impeached, but was preoccupied with allegations, as is now the case. When he was told that impeachment by the House was inevitable, he resigned and negotiated a pardon.

This time, Democrats believe they can pull together their case by the end of November. In all previous impeachment inquiries, the opposition party won the subsequent election. So Trump, never one to give up, will mount the battle of his life.

Financial Post

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