From Far & Near
By Shashi Malla
Democratic Effort to Call Witnesses Fail
The Senate on Friday voted to block any witnesses from being called in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, a move that marked the beginning of the end of only the third Senate trial for a president in US history.
The Senate vote to allow subpoenas for witnesses and documents failed 49-51, with only two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, joining Democrats to back extending the trial (CNN).
The Senate approved a resolution Friday evening from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell laying out the final steps for the trial.
The resolution includes closing arguments of two hours each for the Democratic House managers [prosecutors] and the President’s legal team starting Monday. This will be followed by senators delivering their own speeches explaining their votes. Then, on Wednesday the final vote acquitting the president will take place – a foregone conclusion.
The Democrats achieved a small victory by extending the final vote for Wednesday. They had no desire to let Trump be cleared by the time of his annual prominent ‘State of the Union’ address on Tuesday. He will have to postpone his gloating until Wednesday.
The framers of the American Constitution envisioned and enacted the doctrine of ‘separation of powers’ between the three co-equal branches of government – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. It was an ingenious invention in constitutional law to prevent the abuse of power by any one person [or persons] and obstruct any branch of government from gaining too much control – the famous dictum of ‘checks and balances’.
The Senate verdict could establish a newly empowered presidency, if new laws are not enacted to check it. The Senate ceded power by declining to call witnesses or hear evidence against Trump. His attorney Alan Dershowitz claimed new and expansive power for the President by arguing the President’s personal interest in re-election can be synonymous with the national interest – the now infamous “Dershowitz Doctrine”. The Senate will grant that power to the President by acquitting him on Wednesday!
Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager called this “a descent into constitutional madness.”
Spotlight Now Shifts to November 2020 Elections
Foremost on people’s minds is how the impeachment trial and the final verdict will affect the November 2020 elections – not only for president, but partly also for the House, Senate and governors of states.
On Monday, Americans begin voting in the first of many nationwide contests – called ‘caucuses and primaries – to find presidential nominees for their parties. If the process produces a new president at year’s end, America’s posture in the world at large will be radically different.
On Tuesday, Trump will again be the centre of attention at his annual ‘State of the Union’ address in the House. The dynamics will be fascinating, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who has perpetually tarnished his legacy with impeachment – will be sitting right behind him. The address will nonetheless give him an opportunity to set the rhetorical groundwork for his re-election campaign and to brag about his colossal achievements.
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