Observations of an ex pat: Stones v Avalanche

In the wake of the victory in the House of Representatives, Democrats are preparing to hurl stones at President Trump. The Donald—flushed with Senate victory– has responded by setting loose a pre-emptive avalanche.

The cheers had yet to subside when presumptive Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that Democratic victory in the lower house meant the restoration of legislative oversight and the constitutional system of checks, balances.

In practical terms this means the House withholding funds for Trump’s wall and immigration programmes and launching corruption investigations into cabinet members. Of course, there is also the number one target—Trump and his family. This involves inquiries into sexual misconduct, obstruction of justice, violation of campaign funding laws, possible tax evasion, ethics violations, Russian collusion and, support for the Mueller investigation.

Impeachment is lurking about in the political background. A Democratic majority in the House means they could quickly pass a resolution. But it would hit the brick wall of Trump acolytes in the Senate where a two-thirds majority is required to remover the president from the White House.

Nancy Pelosi also extended the traditional olive branch in her victory press conference. Donald Trump initially responded with a corresponding show of traditional bipartisanship. It lasted—at the most—five minutes. The suspension of White House credentials for CNN reporter Jim Acosta and the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions insured that the political chasm that divides America has only widened.

Trump hates CNN. And with good reason. They are as biased against him as Fox News is biased for him. He wants the cable news network out of his press conferences. But the First Amendment blocks him. So the White House has jumped onto the #Metoo bandwagon with the claim that Acosta “inappropriately touched” a female member of the White House staff while locking horns with the president during his post-election press conference. View the video https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46133268 . Draw your own conclusions.

Sessions is another matter. Trump has been after his Attorney General ever since Sessions recused himself from the Mueller investigation. The move effectively blocked Trump from firing – or at least hobbling– former FBI director Robert Mueller’s investigation into charges of Russian collusion and other alleged nefarious activities.

Jeff Sessions is a far-right Southern aristocrat lawyer with a questionable history on civil rights issues. The late Senator Edward Kennedy described him as a “throwback.” But the now former attorney general is also a firm believer in the rule of law and the role it plays in underpinning American democracy. That is why the key passage in his resignation letter reads: “Most importantly, in my time as Attorney General, we have restored and upheld the rule of law—a glorious tradition that each of us has a responsibility to safeguard.”

The passage is a clear dig at President Trump who has made it clear that he puts personal loyalty above loyal to the constitution and the law of the land, and wants to transform the Department of Justice and the law enforcement bodies it oversees from an independent force into one controlled by himself.

The man Trump has appointed to temporarily succeed Sessions is expected to comply with presidential wishes. Weight lifting ex-college football star Matthew Whitaker has already gone on record as wanting to limit the scope of the Mueller investigation. He has also suggested hamstringing the probe by starving it of funds. Whitaker is the “acting” Attorney General. But quite often there is nothing more permanent than the temporary. If that is the case then Trump avoids a Senate confirmation hearing which may encounter difficulties even with Republican control of the Upper House.

The Democrats—and some Republicans– have reacted with fury and threatened political war. The president responded: “They can play that game. But we can play it better…I think I’m better at that game than they are, actually, but we’ll find out.” And thus ended the shortest-lived bipartisanship in American history.

* Tom Arms is the American-born membership secretary for Tooting Lib Dems. His Observations of an Expat appears regularly on Lib Dem Voice and in a number of US newspapers. Tom also lectures on foreign affairs, presents a weekly broadcast on world affairs for American radio and is working on a book about Anglo-American relations.

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  • John Marriott 9th Nov '18 - 11:13am

    It’s hard not to be fascinated/amused/scared by what is currently going on over the pond. As Martin Kettle wrote in today’s ‘Guardian’, it just goes to prove that, as far as political anoraks, and a lot of other people for that matter, are concerned, if we are a vassel state of anyone, it would be the USA rather than the EU.

    We keep hearing about that ‘special relationship’. In truth, that ‘relationship’ was starting to unravel the moment that FDR and ‘Uncle Joe’ got together at the Tehran conference at the end of WW2 and sought to bypass Churchill. Suez should have taught us what our position vis à vis the US really was in this world of superpowers. Do we really want to cosey up to a Trump led USA and do we really think we can influence events over there?

    We should always have a close relationship with a country we helped to create and that shares our language (more or less); but that country is changing before our eyes. Let’s be a little more cautious before we put all our eggs in this particular basket.

  • nigel hunter 9th Nov '18 - 12:19pm

    Where do out loyalties lay? Yes the US stepped in over Suez Our place in the world
    changed. We are now a country where industry media outlets are either owned by Europe US or oriental concerns.We are not our own country. Bring back control!? of what? We are now at the mercy of anyone who wants to own us..One example of this is the Japanese pulling out of the nuclear contract.Which basket will we put our eggs in or will we be fought over by all who want a slice of us.

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