Tick tock goes the political clock as Dems weigh impeachment

US President Donald Trump reacts as he speaks at the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride event after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US, April 18, 2019. (File/Reuters/Carlos Barria)
Updated 06 June 2019

Tick tock goes the political clock as Dems weigh impeachment

  • The tick-tock of time is an inexorable one as the 2020 presidential and congressional elections cast a widening shadow over Washington
  • The House is expected next week to hold former White House Counsel Don McGahn and Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress

WASHINGTON: The political clock is a significant factor in whether majority House Democrats launch any impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
There’s increasing pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to at least start an impeachment inquiry into whether Trump obstructed special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. She’s resisting for a number of reasons. But the tick-tock of time is an inexorable one as the 2020 presidential and congressional elections cast a widening shadow over Washington. As it spreads, the window for launching any impeachment proceedings shrinks — making the prospect of doing so beyond December unappetizing for wide swaths of Democrats.
That reality could limit how long Pelosi can say yes or no to impeachment questions stemming from Mueller’s report.
“Whatever we do needs to be done in 2019. We need to begin it in 2019. It doesn’t necessarily have to wrap up in 2019,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who serves on the House Judiciary Committee that would consider any such proceedings. “I think when we get into 2020 in the election year, it’s very late.”
That’s the commonality across Democrats divided over what to do now about Trump, described in the Mueller report as repeatedly trying to shut down the investigation. There’s a widespread feeling that the House would have to launch any impeachment proceedings this summer or fall, or it will be too late. There’s also a feeling that Pelosi knows this.
“I think they want to drag out the clock,” said Heidi Hess, co-director of CREDO Action, one of the leading liberal groups that called on Pelosi this week to push forward with impeachment.
Pelosi, the daughter and sister of former Baltimore mayors and a congressional veteran herself, on Wednesday made clear she’s well aware of the political clock — and says everything is unfolding as it should.
“We know exactly what path we are on,” Pelosi, a member of Congress during the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton, told reporters. “We know exactly what actions we need to take. And while that may take more time than some people want it to take, I respect their impatience.”
In line with her approach, the House is expected next week to hold former White House Counsel Don McGahn and Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress. More contempt votes against members of the administration will follow.
Cautioned Pelosi in what’s become a mantra: “One step at a time, as fast as we can move.”
Inside Congress, dozens of congressional Democrats say they want some kind of impeachment proceedings, at some point. But beneath that debate there’s a recognition of the march of time and the plain fact that the available days for any such action are fewer than Congress’ calendar makes it appear.
The schedule has politicos gaming out when, if ever, impeachment proceedings would have to begin and when they become less likely. The calculus starts with the calendar but also moves quickly into the politics. Other regular congressional business looms, such as the federal budget, nominations and more, including whether Republicans can turn back Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexico. Interviews with Democrats inside and outside Congress suggest this political logic: The later it gets in in 2019, the harder impeachment becomes.
Congress is not known for moving swiftly on legislation or investigations. The proceedings against Clinton for lying and obstruction took three months from the time the Republican-led House received prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s report to its vote to impeach the president. Nearly another two months went by before the Senate acquitted Clinton, exacerbating what some veterans see as a nearly unbridgeable rift in the country.
In theory, the House could do what legislators tend to loathe: Cancel or shorten its five-week August recess, or its multi-week recesses in October, November and December to allow for impeachment proceedings. But it’s far from clear the party broadly supports moving to impeachment in the first place, for now.
Sen. Tom Daschle, who was Democratic leader during the Senate’s trial of Clinton, said Congress’ role investigating the administration should be the focus in the short term.
“The closer it gets to the election, the more consequential it would be politically,” he said in a telephone interview. “From an institutional point of view it seems to me that timing is irrelevant.”
Other Pelosi allies see enough time ahead to make impeachment-related decisions.
“I don’t think we have a fear of time, yet,” said Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, a member of the Judiciary Committee introducing legislation to formalize the panel’s investigations.
As for working during recess, she went there.
“We could be in and out and you could still be here two or three days doing what you need to do,” Jackson Lee said. “I was reminded that Watergate really broke in hearings (which were) in August of 1974.”


US presidential debate: Biden warns Iran will ‘pay price’ for election interference

Updated 23 October 2020

US presidential debate: Biden warns Iran will ‘pay price’ for election interference

  • Trump and Biden go toe-to-toe on foreign policy, COVID-19 and race
  • Final debate paints two stark pictures of America’s future

NEW YORK: Joe Biden warned Iran would “pay a price” for interfering in the US election if he is elected president.

During a more orderly second debate with President Donald Trump Thursday, the former vice president looked to take the initiative on foreign attempts to influence voters.

Moderator Kirsten Welker asked Biden about revelations from intelligence officials that Russia and Iran had attempted to meddle in the election and obtained voter registration information.

“We know that Russia has been involved, China has been involved to some degree, and now we learn that Iran has been involved,” Biden said, “They will pay a price if I’m elected.”

(AFP)

John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, said this week that Iran used the information to send threatening emails to voters in Florida.  On Thursday, the US Treasury Department responded with new sanctions against five Iranian entities accused of spreading disinformation and division ahead of the election.

Biden’s warning to Iran would have rankled with Trump and his foreign policy team. The president has imposed a maximum pressure policy on Tehran by withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal and imposing tough sanctions.

Trump accuses the previous administration, in which Joe Biden deputized to Barack Obama, of allowing Iran to further its missile program and expand its militias across the Middle East.

On Russia, Biden said Moscow did not want him to get elected, because they know he would be tough on them.

“They know that I know them. And they know me,” Biden said.

Trump said: “There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.”

He accused Biden of receiving money from foreign companies.

“I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life,” Biden said, arguing that he had released all of his tax returns, unlike the president.

(AFP)

“Release your tax returns or stop talking about corruption,” Biden said. 

While the second and final debate ahead of the Nov. 3 election was a calmer affair than the first one, it was laden with attacks. 

The rules were different this time: microphones were muted for two-minute stretches to allow the other an uninterrupted answer. 

Welker kept the contentious rivals under control, and made sure things were clear and organized at the venue in Belmont University in Nashville. She got the best reviews of the night. 

A viewer tweeted: “Kristen Welker is putting on a master class in how to moderate a presidential debate.”

The two candidates squared off on foreign policy, the economy, race, healthcare, and climate change. 

(AFP)

The debate kicked off with exchanges over the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 in the US, where most states are seeing a dramatic resurgence of the virus. 

Trump defended the way his administration handled COVID-19. “We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease that came from China,” he said.

The president argued that the mortality rate has decreased and a vaccine would probably be ready before the end of the year. 

“We’re rounding the turn. We’re learning to live with it,” said Trump. 

“We’re learning to die with it,” replied Biden, who criticized the president for not having a plan to address the crisis.

“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden said. 

(AFP)

Pivoting to a report that the current administration could not locate the parents of more than 500 children detained at the border with Mexico and separated from their families, Trump said children are brought across the border by “coyotes and drug cartels.” 

Defending his immigration policies, Trump said the border is now more secure than ever. 

He said he is “trying very hard” to reunite children with their parents. 

Biden called the Trump administration’s inability to locate the parents “criminal.” He said Trump’s family separation policy made America a laughingstock: “It violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”

The president then pressed Biden to answer “who built the cages” that were shown in media reports. Biden dodged the answer. 

The cages were built in 2014 by the Obama administration. 

Biden then promised, if elected, to put in motion reforms that would provide a pathway to citizenship, protected from deportation, for undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers”.  “We owe them,” Biden said.

Discussion heated up when Welker breached the race topic, as the country continues to contend with civil unrest over racial injustice and police brutality.  

Biden said the US has “never, ever lived up” to the promise of liberty and equality for all, a principle upon which it was founded.

Trump said that, other than Abraham Lincoln, “nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump.”

He attacked Biden’s support for the 1994 crime law, which critics say has led to mass incarceration.

But Biden turned to the camera and addressed voters directly:  “You know who I am. You know who he is.” 

Biden called the president a “racist” who “pours fuel on every single racist fire.”

(AFP)

“I think I have great relationships with all people. I am the least racist person in this room,” Trump responded.

Twelve days before the election, American voters were able to watch unfold two visions for the future of their country. It is hard to tell whether the candidates were able to broaden their appeal beyond their own bases and attract the undecided voters, whose numbers are shrinking by the day. 

Millions of them are already standing in long lines outside polling stations, braving night and chilly temperatures, to cast their early, final votes.