Wild week in US politics

Bernie Sanders supporters wait for their candidate at a rally. (Photo: Facebook)

It’s been a big week in US politics, from uncertain results in the Iowa Caucuses, to the upcoming seventh Democratic debate and the acquittal of Trump in the Senate Impeachment Trial.

Iowa Caucuses

Technical issues kept the results from Monday’s Iowa Caucus from being released for almost four days, with presidential candidate Bernie Sanders eventually claiming victory in a tight contest.

The vote to select the Democratic presidential nominee for 2020 saw Pete Buttigieg tentatively claim victory despite the fact that multiple technical issues forced manual recounts which delayed full results for days.

Both claims are contentious however, with 97 per cent of the vote now reported, Sanders can claim victory in the popular vote, while Buttigieg leads in delegate votes, which are the representatives of the party who will vote on party members’ behalf for the nomination.

The delayed results have denied the candidates any boost usually delivered by winning the first ballot of the presidential cycle.

Iowa is historically the first state to vote for both Republican and Democratic nominees and many look to the results as a predictor for the eventual Democratic nominee.

Seven out of ten winners of the Iowa Caucus have gone on to win the Democratic nomination, including Presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter. The trend on the Republican side is not as strong.

Democratic Debates

Seven of the Democratic presidential candidates will take the stage on Friday night in the seventh Democratic debate in New Hampshire.

The location is significant as, following Iowa, New Hampshire is the next in line to vote, with the state’s primary slated for February 11.

The candidates will be hoping to make a strong case to New Hampshire voters to create or maintain momentum going in to the rest of the national campaign.

The debate participants are likely to field questions on the acquittal of President Donald Trump in the Senate impeachment trial on Wednesday, particularly from the three Democratic Senators on stage who took the vote, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobachar.

The debate is one of the last chances candidates Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang, who polled at one per cent and 0.3 per cent in the Iowa caucus respectively, have to boost their campaign to stay in the race.

Due to entry conditions the Democratic National Committee has placed on the debates, Former New York city mayor Michael Bloomberg will not be on stage, having not met the minimum individual donor threshold. A billionaire, Bloomberg is personally financing his campaign.

Impeachment

The Senate voted on Wednesday almost entirely along party lines to acquit President Trump of both articles of impeachment – or charges – that were brought to it following a trial in the House of Representatives late last year.

A two thirds Senate majority of 67 was required to remove Trump from office, meaning that almost half of Senate Republicans would have to vote with Democrats in order for him to be removed from office.

Only one Republican, Mitt Romney of Utah broke ranks to vote in line with the Democrats on the first article, making the final vote 48 – 52 in favour of acquittal, while the second was a perfect party line vote of 47 – 53 for the same.

“The President is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust,” Romney told the Senate before taking the historic vote.

President Trump lashed out at Romney for breaking ranks by tweeting a conspiracy video which labelled the Utah senator a ‘Democratic secret asset’.

In September 2019, the House of Representatives began the impeachment trial after a whistleblower’s report from within the White House alleged Donald Trump deliberately withheld congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine in exchange for damning information on political rival and Democratic presidential hopeful, Joe Biden.

This report was seemingly confirmed by the release of the transcript of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinski in which the request was made.

Following the Impeachment Trial, the House of Representatives voted to charge Trump on two articles of impeachment.

  1. Abuse of power for using of his office to solicit the interference of a foreign government to benefit his reelection, and
  2. Obstruction of Congress for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas, or requests for documents or testimony of witnesses.

Over the course of proceedings, White House lawyers and Republicans offered varying defenses, most notably that President Trump’s actions were justified and due to the proximity of the presidential election, Trump’s fate should be left to the voters to decide.

Democrats argued this was not sufficient as a fair election could not be guaranteed, as Trump’s attempts to use his power to influence the outcome of the election were precisely what he was impeached for.

Notably, impeachment and removal are two separate things. The House of Representatives voted largely along party lines on both articles to formally impeach President Trump. It was then up to the Senate to vote on his removal from office.

This makes President Trump the third president in history to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999.

Richard Nixon famously resigned under the looming threat of impeachment in 1974 when it became clear senators in his own party were going to vote to remove him.