Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. House of Representatives Votes To Send Trump Impeachment Articles To Senate
The House of Representatives voted on January 15 to send the impeachment articles against President Donald Trump to the Senate, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the seven House Democrats who will serve as the “managers” in the trial, which is set to start next week. The measure passed 228-193, with one Democrat opposing the resolution, Congressman Collin Peterson of Minnesota, who also voted last month against both articles of impeachment. The two articles, charging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, were signed by Speaker Pelosi at a historic engrossment ceremony and then hand-delivered to the Senate in a procession through the Capitol that was led by the House clerk and sergeant at arms and included the House managers. The trial is expected to begin on January 21. “This is about the Constitution of the United States, and it’s important for the president to know and Putin to know that American voters, voters in America, should decide who our president is,” Speaker Pelosi said, referring to the Russian president at a press conference with the managers. Congressman Jerrold Nadler said on the floor ahead of the resolution vote that Speaker Pelosi had “led our fight for a fair trial in the Senate.” “Above all, a fair trial must include additional documents and relevant witnesses,” he said. “The American people have common sense. They know that any trial that does not allow witnesses is not a trial. It is a cover-up.
During House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s news conference, President Donald Trump called the impeachment a “Con Job” in a Twitter post and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), spoke on the Senate floor. President Trump told Republican lawmakers who attended the signing of his trade deal with China, including Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the minority leader, that he would understand if they had to leave for the vote on the impeachment resolution. “They have a hoax going on over there, so let’s take care of it,” Trump said. “It undoes the people’s decision in a national election,” Senator McConnell said. “Going about it in this subjective, unfair and rushed way is corrosive to our institutions. It hurts national unity, and it virtually guarantees — guarantees, that future Houses of either party will feel free, free to impeach any future president because they don’t like him.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also reiterated her call for witness testimony at the trial. “Time has been our friend in all of this, because it has yielded incriminating evidence, more truth into the public domain,” Speaker Pelosi said. Earlier, she spoke about newly released documents linking Trump directly to his attorney Rudy Giuliani’s political digging in Ukraine, saying they highlighted the need for witness testimony at the impeachment trial. “There can be no full & fair trial in the Senate if Leader McConnell blocks the Senate from hearing witnesses and obtaining documents President Trump is covering up,” Pelosi said in one Twitter post. “The President has fought tooth-and-nail to keep thousands of documents away from the public,” the speaker said in another Twitter post. “And no wonder — each time new pieces come out, they show President Trump right at the center of the effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.”
The documents, part of the evidence turned over to House impeachment investigators by lawyers for Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate who is awaiting trial on campaign finance charges, include a letter from Giuliani requesting a private meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, then the president-elect of Ukraine, with Trump’s “knowledge and consent.” The letter, written on Giuliani’s letterhead, was dated May 10, 2018. President Trump has previously tried to distance himself from his attorney’s Ukraine work, saying in November, “I didn’t direct him.” But the documents, which were released on January 14 by House Democrats, appear to bolster House Democrats’ claim that Trump was more than aware of Giuliani’s efforts to find dirt in Ukraine on political rival Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.
2. Remaining Parties To JCPOA Trigger Dispute Mechanism, Which Could Lead To The Unraveling Of Agreement
On January 14, France, Germany and the UK have triggered a dispute mechanism in the Iran nuclear deal that could lead to the further unraveling of the pact, just days after the Iranian government took another step back from some of its commitments under the landmark agreement. The foreign ministers of the three European signatories to the nuclear pact issued a statement, saying that while they remain committed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is formally known, the dispute mechanism outlined in Paragraph 36 had been activated. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement that the three countries “could no longer leave the growing Iranian violations of the nuclear agreement unanswered.” “After intensive consultations with France and Great Britain, we, therefore, decided to trigger the dispute settlement mechanism provided for in the agreement. Our goal is clear: we want to preserve the agreement and come to a diplomatic solution within the agreement,” Maas said.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry responded to the announcement by saying that it “will give decisive response to unconstructive actions by the three countries.” Under the mechanism, the Joint Commission, which contains representatives from every signatory and is designed to safeguard the deal, will now review the situation. The commission will have 15 days to resolve the situation. If it cannot reach a consensus, the issue would be discussed by the foreign ministers of the signatory countries and, if either side requests it, by a special advisory board. If there is still no agreement after a further 20 days, the agreement could face its end. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during the meeting that “if we are going to get rid of [the nuclear deal], then we need a replacement.” “The problem with the agreement is that from the American perspective is that it is a flawed agreement, it is expired and plus it was negotiated by President Obama and from their point of view it has many, many faults,” Johnson said, adding that it could be replaced “with the Trump deal.” “That’s what we need to see and I think that will be a great way forward,” he added.
3. President Donald Trump Signs Interm Trade Agreement With China
President Donald Trump signed an interim trade agreement with China on January 15, portraying it as a major win for American business ahead of his 2020 reelection bid. The move was the first tangible sign of de-escalation in a trade dispute that has rattled the world’s largest economies for nearly two years. “As a candidate for president, I vowed strong action — it’s probably the biggest reason I ran for president,” President Trump said in a freewheeling speech alongside Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the East Room of the White House. “I more than kept my promise. Now our efforts have yielded a transformative deal that will bring tremendous benefits to both countries.”
The so-called phase-one deal has been widely welcomed by companies, investors, and policymakers who have warned that punitive tariffs have upended global supply chains through higher costs and cast deep uncertainty on business plans. But it is only the start of negotiations to defuse a broader economic standoff between the two sides. As part of the phase-one agreement, which was announced late last year, the Trump administration agreed to reduce a portion of tariff rates for China if it adjusted some of the ways it manages its state-run economy.
The White House had said the 86-page text would include commitments from China on American agricultural purchases, tighter intellectual-property protections, increased scrutiny of currency movements, and a more open financial sector. More details of the agreement were set to be released on the day of the signing ceremony. But critics were swift to question whether those concessions were enough to justify the costs that have piled up from tariffs, which researchers recently concluded fell almost entirely on Americans. “By now we should recognize this as the usual Trump process: create chaos, end chaos, declare a great victory,” said Jared Bernstein, who was a senior economist in the Obama administration. “In reality, there’s no victory here, just some squishy, minor promises from China, unnecessarily disrupted trade flows, and assorted pain for no gain.” Trump was also met with pushback from unlikely critics who said the phase-one deal left out economic aggressions at the center of a Section 301 investigation that ignited the dispute. The second round of negotiations could address those issues, including large-scale subsidies China provides to companies.
Meanwhile, tariffs are likely to remain on thousands of products. The Trump administration has agreed to lower tariffs on $110 billion worth of products targeted in September, but tariff rates of separate tranches with a total trade value of roughly $250 billion will remain. Trump suggested that those tariffs would be lifted following a phase-two deal with China, which he has said is unlikely to be finalized until after the November election. However, it was unclear whether tariff rollbacks had been officially agreed upon. “There is no agreement for future reduction in tariffs,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a joint statement to Business Insider on Tuesday. In a letter to Trump this week, Scott N. Paul, the president of Alliance for American Manufacturing, said that “nearly all the major structural issues” were unresolved. The factory group has supported tariffs and opposed a process designed to allow some companies to receive exemptions. “For American manufacturing and its workers, the phase one agreement is completely inadequate,” Paul said. “The agreement does not level the playing field for American workers in the US or global market.”
4. Russian Government Resigns As Vladimir Putin Proposes Reforms To Extend His Grip On Power
Russian President Vladimir Putin on January 15 launched a major political shake-up, replacing his prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and proposing a series of changes to Russia’s constitution, in what was seen as an attempt to create options for retaining power after his presidential term expires in 2024. President Putin used his annual state of the nation address in Moscow to announce several proposed amendments to the constitution, which would transfer power to Russia’s parliament and which he said would be put to a national vote. Then a few hours after the speech, Prime Minister Medvedev announced he and the entire cabinet were stepping down at Putin’s request. Putin said Medvedev, a long-time ally who held the Russian Presidency for him between 2008 and 2012, will now become deputy chairman of Russia’s national security council.
Observers immediately interpreted the moves that stunned Russians as part of efforts by Vladimir Putin to prepare for his looming transition in 2024, when constitutional term limits mean he must leave the presidency. At 67, Putin has ruled Russia for two decades, and the question of how he will handle the deadline when it arrives in four years’ time has been growing ever larger recently. In his speech, Putin framed the changes as necessary to give the parliament greater responsibility for policy-making, but in reality, experts said the proposed changes seemed designed to open up possibilities for allowing him to stay in power after leaving office and to weaken any successor in the presidency.
Dimitry Medvedev, who announced the cabinet’s resignation while with Putin at a meeting broadcast on state television, said he was stepping down so Putin could appoint a new government to help carry through the constitutional reforms. “In this context it’s obvious that we as the government of the Russian Federation must give the president of our country the opportunity to do everything necessary for this decision,” Medvedev said. Shortly afterward Putin named Medvedev’s successor as prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, the relatively little-known head of the Federal Tax Service, saying his candidacy had been sent to parliament for approval. Mishustin is not thought of as a major power broker or a member of Putin’s inner circle, although as head of the tax agency he has been praised for overhauling Russia’s backward tax collection system, introducing data technologies that have made it one of the most advanced in the world.
The changes to the constitution that Vladimir Putin suggested in his speech would transfer powers away from the presidency and strengthen the parliament, known as the Duma, as well as the Federation Council, Russia’s equivalent of the Senate, and the Supreme Court. One key change would take the power of selecting a cabinet from the presidency and pass it to the parliament. Currently, the prime minister and ministers are appointed by the president. But under Putin’s proposal, parliament would now select the prime minister who would then nominate his own ministers for approval by members of parliament. Another change would grant the Federation Council the authority to confirm the appointments of the head of Russia’s security agencies. The parliament’s deputy speaker, Alexander Zhukov told reporters after the speech that the national vote on the amendments would likely take place this year, perhaps in September.
Vladimir Putin has long avoided saying whether he will stay on after 2024, but experts said the proposed changes indicated the potential routes the Russian government was now considering for getting out of his transition problem. Russia’s constitution currently sets a two consecutive term limit on presidencies, and Putin, who has effectively ruled the country since 1999, is now in his fourth. In 2008, he sidestepped the limit on consecutive terms by temporarily passing the presidency to Medvedev while he became prime minister before returning to office in 2012. But Putin has suggested this time he will not repeat the trick and suggested that the word “consecutive” be removed from the constitutional article on term limits.