Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. Senate Acquits President Donald Trump In Impeachment Trial
The Republican-led Senate acquitted President Donald Trump of charges stemming from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that would benefit him in this year’s election, concluding a four-month drama that has consumed the country and intensified the nation’s sharp divide over his presidency. On the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, all 47 Democrats and one Republican voted to convict the president, falling short of the 67 needed to remove the president from office. In the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, the vote also failed, with all Democrats and no Republicans finding the president guilty.
The Presidential impeachment trial, the nation’s third in its history, grew out of a July 25, 2019 phone call in which President Donald Trump asked Ukraine’s president to announce certain investigations just as he was holding up US aid to the country. President Trump has defended the call as “perfect” and has said he did nothing wrong regarding Ukraine. The aid was later released after a bipartisan outcry from lawmakers. “The American people, and frankly, people all over the world, know it’s a hoax,” Trump told supporters at a recent rally in Des Moines, Iowa. Trump had hoped for vindication in the Senate trial after a House investigation that he had decried as politically motivated. What he got was something less: Amid strong support for his acquittal from his party, several Republicans also said Democrats had proved that he acted improperly regarding Ukraine.
President Donald Trump was also denied a unanimous verdict from Republican senators, with Mitt Romney of Utah voting to convict the President on abuse of power. “The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust,” Senator Mitt Romney said on the Senate floor before the vote. The action by Senator Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, made him the first senator in US history to vote to convict a president of his own party. In the impeachment trials of Democratic presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, no Democratic senators voted to convict. The Trump administration, which had been predicting that all Republican senators would vote to acquit the President, was caught off-guard by Romney’s announcement, aides said.
Democrats said the acquittal amounted to a defeat for both their party and the institution of Congress, and they warned that leaving President Donald Trump in office would make him free to abuse power again. “He has compromised our elections and he will do so again,“ said Congressman Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who led the team of impeachment managers. “You will not change him. You cannot constrain him.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) opened the inquiry in September of 2019 over President Trump’s push for Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential election opponent this year, and his son, Hunter. Trump and his allies have argued that it was corrupt for Hunter Biden to serve on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while his father as vice president was spearheading an anti-corruption effort in the country. The Bidens have denied any wrongdoing. Hunter Biden has said it was poor judgment to take the board position while his father was involved with Ukraine policy.
The Democratic-led House called 17 witnesses and hundreds of documents to build its case, formally impeaching the President in December. A month later, it handed the articles to the Senate, which heard arguments from House impeachment managers and President Donald Trump’s defense team over about three weeks but rejected calling additional witnesses or documents, speeding President Trump’s acquittal. Trump’s impeachment trial, the first not to include witnesses, was shorter than its predecessors. Former President Bill Clinton’s trial lasted two weeks longer than Trump’s after senators voted to allow new depositions. The tightly choreographed Senate trial was upended late last month by new revelations from former national security adviser John Bolton about the President’s pressure campaign on Ukraine. The former official’s revelations in a yet-unpublished memoir briefly raised the possibility a sufficient number of Republicans would join with Democrats to vote in favor of new witness testimony. But Republicans ultimately voted nearly in unison to oppose hearing from Bolton and other witnesses, moving the trial along to the expected acquittal.
The trial’s political impact remains to be determined. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent much of last year avoiding impeachment, telling her caucus it needed to be a bipartisan process and last spring describing the effort as “not worth it.” Her mind changed after The Wall Street Journal reported in September that President Donald Trump had pressed Ukraine’s president in the July call to investigate the Bidens. When centrists in her caucus backed an impeachment inquiry, she announced it would move forward. A majority of voters said they believed President Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Some 49% of respondents said he should be allowed to finish his term, compared with 46% who said he should be removed. Impeachment also made little impact on Trump’s job-approval rating, which stood at 46% in the January poll—in line with his rating throughout his presidency.
2. Iowa Caucuses Ends In Deadlock Between Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg
In an early Iowa Democratic caucus vote count, Senator Bernie Sander held a slight popular-vote lead, while former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg led in a measure of state delegates. With 62 percent of precincts counted, Sanders earned 26 percent of the popular vote; Buttigieg hit 25. By both measures, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was in third place with 20 percent of the vote, and former Vice President Joe Biden placed fourth at 13 percent. The results were released nearly a day after the caucuses were held, thanks to widespread reporting issues. The Iowa Democratic Party blamed inconsistencies in reporting for the delay. A New York Times analysis of the data, however, said that the results were “riddled with inconsistencies. Technical glitches in an app used to report caucus data delayed results typically released the night of the Iowa presidential caucuses, which took place on February 3. Candidates started to move on to New Hampshire on February 4 ahead of its February 11 primary, but not before they put a positive spin on the Hawkeye State outcome in the absence of official numbers.
Iowa Democratic Party spokeswoman Mandy McClure said this week that the party would “continue to release the results as we can.” The first set of data from more than half of the precincts came at about 5 p.m. on February 4, followed by more results just before midnight. New chunks of numbers came throughout the day on February 5. Adding to confusion and frustration, Iowa Democrats had to update one batch of data after acknowledging they needed to make a “minor correction.” The figures the party initially released showed Buttigieg jumping barely ahead of Sanders in one of its three data sets, reallocated preference. But Sanders once again had an edge in that category when the numbers were reissued. Just before the party released its first batch of data, its chairman, Troy Price, apologized for the botched reporting process. He called it “unacceptable.” Price said Iowa Democrats would undertake a “thorough, transparent and independent examination of what occurred.” Price said the party faced “multiple reporting challenges” including a “coding error” in the app used at caucus sites. He noted that Iowa Democrats have taken their time out of an “abundance of caution” to make sure the data is accurate. Price said the party has a paper trail to verify electronically reported data.
Multiple Democratic campaigns criticized the delay in releasing results. The chaos fueled more calls from observers to do away with caucuses or Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status. In the absence of results, campaigns announced internal tallies, which can skew toward their candidates. The data suggested some combination of Sanders, Buttigieg and Warren were competing at the top of the caucus field. Buttigieg declared victory early on February 5, the only candidate to do so before the state party released any data. Speaking in New Hampshire after Iowa Democrats released results, he said a campaign that “some said should have no business even making this attempt has taken its place at the front of this race.” Speaking before results were released, Sanders said “we’re not declaring victory.” After the Iowa results started to come out, he said to reporters in New Hampshire, “I’m very proud to tell you that last night in Iowa we received more votes on the first and second round than any other candidate.” “For some reason in Iowa, they’re having a little bit of trouble counting votes,” he continued. “But I am confident that here in New Hampshire I know you’ll be able to count those votes on election night.”
3. Amid Much Criticism By The UN For Its One-Sided Nature, Trump Administration Releases Its Long-Awaited Middle East Plan
President Donald Trump announced his administration’s ‘Vision for Peace, Prosperity and a Brighter Future’ at the White House on January 28, which would legalize Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel also would be allowed to annex around 30 percent of the West Bank. In response, the UN underlined its longstanding commitment to realizing a two-State solution, with Israelis and Palestinians “living side by side in peace and security, within recognized borders, on the basis of the pre-1967 lines.” However, what the US plan offers is “a one and a half state solution”, according to Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory. “This is not a recipe for a just and durable peace but rather endorses the creation of a 21st century Bantustan in the Middle East”, he said, referring to the homelands established for black South Africans during the apartheid era. “The Palestinian statelet envisioned by the American plan would be scattered archipelagos of non-contiguous territory completely surrounded by Israel, with no external borders, no control over its airspace, no right to a military to defend its security, no geographic basis for a viable economy, no freedom of movement and with no ability to complain to international judicial forums against Israel or the United States.”
Michael Lynk deplored the proposal to legalize Israeli settlements, and he urged countries to condemn any call to annex Palestinian territory, which is prohibited under international law. “This unilateral act undermines the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, and it threatens to drag the world back to darker times, when conquest was acceptable, borders could be redrawn and territorial integrity was regularly undermined”, he stated. Under the Trump plan, Jerusalem would remain Israel’s undivided capital, which Lynk called distressing as it “recognizes the conquest and illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, which remains occupied territory under international law, as embedded in scores of United Nations resolutions”.
The rights expert also took issue with proposals that would prevent Palestinian refugees from returning to their homes in Israel. “Nothing in the Trump plan alters the continuing prevalence of the laws of occupation, the human rights of the Palestinians under occupation, and the absolute obligation on the international community to redouble its efforts to achieve a just, equitable and durable solution on the basis of equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis alike,” said Lynk.
4. President Donald Trump Delivers Third “State of the Union Address”
President Donald Trump highlighted economic gains and his reelection bid in a sweeping State of the Union address on February 4, but his impeachment overshadowed the text as the traditional address to a joint session of Congress devolved into theatrical outbursts and unmasked partisan disdain. Republican lawmakers loudly chanted “four more years!” before President Trump began speaking, setting an intensely political tone for an address that offered few major policy proposals but presented a triumphant view of the nation’s changes under his administration, especially emphasizing areas that excite his supporters: curbing illegal immigration, limiting access to abortion and imposing tougher trade policies. “The state of our union is stronger than ever before,” Trump declared, adding hyperbole to the standard presidential claim.
President Donald Trump stood in the House rostrum seven weeks after House Democrats voted to impeach him for abuse of office and obstruction of Congress. He did not mention his impeachment in the speech, but when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) extended her hand in greeting before he began, he did not take it, a break with protocol that spoke volumes about the bitter divisions that have deepened during his turbulent presidency. Apparently in response, Pelosi, who sat behind the president, stood up and dramatically ripped her printed copy of his speech in half when he finished speaking, a sign of disrespect equally stunning for the most powerful Democrat in Congress, as he paced just in front of her, basking in applause from the Republican side of the chamber.
In his remarks, rather than urging lawmakers to work together, President Trump took credit mostly for work already done, criticizing and sometimes distorting Democrats’ positions on immigration and healthcare. As his language became increasingly sharp-edged, the mood in the chamber soured. Democrats made little effort to hide their eye-rolls and visceral reactions. When Trump urged Congress to work on legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs, Democrats stood and chanted “H.R. 3,” waving three fingers at the president to call attention to their existing legislation addressing the issue. They booed and groaned when he promised he “will always protect patients with preexisting conditions,” unabashedly declaring, “There are those who want to take away your healthcare.” Many Democrats, incensed because Trump is currently suing to overturn the Affordable Care Act, including the provision that guarantees coverage for people with preexisting conditions, shouted back at the president: “You!”
President Donald Trump invited a Venezuelan opposition leader to sit in the audience, awarded a Medal of Freedom on the spot to cancer-stricken controversial talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, and orchestrated a surprise reunion of a soldier who had been on his fourth deployment to the Middle East with his tearful wife, who was seated in the gallery. By the time of the reunion, at least two Democratic lawmakers had already walked out, noting their departures on Twitter. “I’ve had enough,” tweeted Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH). “It’s like watching professional wrestling. It’s all fake.”
In his remarks, President Donald Trump contrasted his record with President Obama’s, blaming his predecessor for a decline in the workforce that was largely triggered by the recession that began before Obama took office in 2009, and taking credit for recent gains. “From the instant I took office, I moved rapidly to revive the U.S. economy — slashing a record number of job-killing regulations, enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts, and fighting for fair and reciprocal trade agreements,” Trump said. Democrats sat without clapping as the president recited a litany of economic and jobs numbers. “This is a blue-collar boom,” Trump said, pointing to a rise in median household income and the steady rise of the nation’s stock market since he took office. “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny,” he said. “We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back!”
Drawing another battle line ahead of the November election, President Donald Trump promoted school voucher programs that have long been a priority for traditional conservatives, derisively labeling public schools as “government schools” and calling on Congress to pass a bill that would allow the use of vouchers at the federal level “to rescue” students left on waiting lists for state scholarships. He panned the “Medicare for all” proposals backed by two Democratic presidential hopefuls, Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. “We will never let socialism destroy American healthcare!” he said, before pivoting to an even more controversial assertion, claiming that support for a government takeover of healthcare would lead to “free government healthcare for illegal aliens.” He also cited milestone accomplishments on trade talks and national security, including the CIA-led raid that left ISIS founder Abu Bakr Baghdadi dead in Syria, and the US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, whom he called “a ruthless butcher.” Trump also reaffirmed his administration’s support for the surprise guest, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whose attempts to remove Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro have failed so far.
In the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s address, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said she wanted to focus on working-class struggles and healthcare. “It doesn’t matter what the president says about the stock market. What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans, or prescription drugs,” she said.