Donald Trump's impeachment fears grow after terrible week - Kogonuso

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Dec 15, 2018

Donald Trump's impeachment fears grow after terrible week

He's always confident — overconfident, even — whenever he fronts the cameras.

But in private, Donald Trump's fears he'll be ousted from the top job are growing.

The US President has told people close to him in recent days that he is alarmed by the prospect of impeachment, according to an NBC News report.

The argument for impeaching a US president is that when they've been proven to commit high crimes there is a constitutional obligation to open an inquiry into removing them, reports news.com.au.

Talk of potential impeachment has followed Mr Trump since his election win back in 2016, and he always laughed it off as a non-threat. So what's different now?

This has been one of the President's worst weeks yet. From being implicated by his own Justice Department in a felony, to a very public spat with the incoming House Democrats over one of his most signature policies, it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for the leader of the free world.

In public, Mr Trump continues to appear confident.

"It's hard to impeach somebody who hasn't done anything wrong and who's created the greatest economy in the history of our country," he told Reuters earlier this week. "I'm not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened."

But a tumultuous week of awkward photo-ops, nightmare negotiations and an ongoing investigation into his shady dealings begs to differ.
COHEN: 'I HID TRUMP'S DIRTY DEEDS'

You know the situation isn't good when your own government describes you as a crook.

But that's exactly what happened last Friday, after federal prosecutors concluded that Michael Cohen, Mr Trump's former lawyer and legal fixer, should receive three years in prison for a series of crimes relating to the President.

The crimes included lying to Congress about the President's plans to build a tower in Russia, violating campaign finance laws to pay off two women — adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal — who claimed they had affairs with Mr Trump, and crimes relating to Mr Cohen's own personal finances.

At his sentencing, Mr Cohen took his old boss down with him, saying it was unfortunate he had to cover up the President's "dirty deeds".

That the President was directly implicated in two felonies presented a dire situation for the White House administration.

Prosecutors are still working to determine whether Mr Trump had criminal intent, which they need in order to prosecute him.

It also showed he lied to the public in the lead-up to the 2016 election by stating he had no business links with Russia.

Some Democrats are suggesting this could lead to formal charges against the President.

Mr Trump has denied all the accusations, including the affairs with Ms Daniels and Ms McDougal, knowledge of the hush money payments and any payments relating to the campaign.
SENATE VOTES AGAINST TRUMP ON KHASHOGGI

The Senate has issued a rebuke of Donald Trump's love-in with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

On Friday, US senators voted 56 to 41 to end the nation's participation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has plunged millions into starvation, and unanimously approved a measure blaming bin Salman for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The vote came in stark contrast to Mr Trump's position, which has consistently been to defend Saudi leaders, despite himself acknowledging that bin Salman may have ordered the gruesome murder.

"He's the leader of Saudi Arabia. They've been a very good ally," Mr Trump told Reuters this week.

Asked if standing beside Saudi Arabia means also standing by the Crown Prince, Mr Trump said, "Well, at this moment, it certainly does."

Not according to his colleagues, evidently.

"The unanimous vote to hold Mohammed responsible for Khashoggi's killing reflects the extent to which senators in both parties have grown tired of Trump's continued defence of Mohammed's denials," said a Post report on the vote. "It also puts significant pressure on leaders in the House — where the President's Saudi policy is far more divisive — to allow for a similar vote to condemn the Crown Prince before the end of the year."

Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Mr Trump's closest allies, added: "The current relationship with Saudi Arabia is not working for America," insisting "things need to change in Saudi Arabia".
CRINGE-WORTHY PHOTOS FROM BUSH FUNERAL

George H.W. Bush's funeral was already a solemn occasion, but in the front row of presidents and first ladies past and present, you could cut the tension with a knife.

The awkwardness was evident in the expressions of the Obamas, Clintons and Trumps as they were forced to sit together for the former president's funeral service.

Barack and Michelle Obama had been smiling and chatting easily with Bill and Hillary Clinton when Donald and Melania Trump joined them — and the room froze.

Mr Obama took the lead in shaking hands with the Trumps, before a grim-faced Mrs Obama followed suit. The awkward exchange immediately went viral.

It is well known that there is no love lost between the current and previous first couple, with Mrs Obama recently writing in her book Becoming that she would "never forgive" Mr Trump for putting her family's safety at risk by stoking the "birther" conspiracy theory that her husband was born outside the US.

Mr Trump fired back that he would never forgive Mr Obama "for what he did to our US military."

Mr Clinton shook Mrs Trump's hand but Mrs Clinton, Mr Trump's former presidential rival and bitter enemy, simply nodded in their direction, before turning her gaze to stare fixedly ahead.

During the funeral, the late Mr Bush was lauded as almost his exact opposite in style. Mr Trump, in turn, wore an expression that suggested he would have rather been anywhere else in the world.
A VERY PUBLIC SPAT WITH HOUSE DEMOCRATS

Earlier in the week, Donald Trump had a televised meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer which fast descended into chaos.

The discussion was especially important as it marked Mr Trump's first encounter with the newly empowered Democrats since their midterm victory in the House last month.

But it quickly went sour.

The three were seated around the Oval Office discussing funding for the border wall with Mexico, with a partial shutdown looming on December 21 when funding for some agencies will expire.

Mr Trump wants $US5 billion ($A7 billion) in funding for the wall's construction next year, while Democrats are only prepared to offer $US1.3 billion ($A1.8 billion).

As discussions grew more and more heated, the leaders raised their voices at each other, interrupted each other repeatedly and made personal attacks.

Mr Trump then took a swipe at Ms Pelosi's political performance, saying: "Nancy's in a situation where it's not easy for her to talk right now."

"Please don't characterise the strength I bring to this meeting," she fired back.

She added: "The fact is you do not have the votes in the House."

Ms Pelosi repeatedly asked Mr Trump to turn the cameras off for the meeting, but the heated argument lasted almost 20 minutes while baffled reporters looked on.

At one point, Ms Pelosi remarked: "This has spiralled downwards."

The meeting ended with Mr Trump threatening to shut down the government, declaring he'd be happy to take such a drastic action to get what he wants.

Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer both implored him not to do so, but he insisted: "I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I'm going to shut it down for border security."

It was a symbol of just how badly Mr Trump has lost control of Congress.

All in all, not a good look — but a likely preview of things to come.
RUSSIAN AGENT PLEADS GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY CHARGES

Russian gun-rights activist Maria Butina has admitted that she was a secret agent for the Kremlin who tried to infiltrate conservative US political groups as Donald Trump rose to power.

The 30-year-old agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge on Thursday as part of a deal with federal prosecutors.

The Butina case has provided a vivid glimpse into Russia's influence on operations in the US at a time when the US intelligence community has determined that Russia was trying to help elect Mr Trump by releasing emails stolen from Democrats and conducting a social media campaign in an attempt to sow political discord.

The case also lays bare how Russia tried to exploit one of the most sensitive social issues in the US — gun control — to gain access to the political sphere.

Prosecutors said Butina and her Russian patron, Alexander Torshin, used their contacts in the National Rifle Association to pursue back channels to American conservatives during the 2016 campaign, when Mr Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.

Court documents detail how Butina saw the Republican Party as prime for Russian influence and courted conservatives through networking and contacts with the NRA. She posed for photos with prominent Republicans, including former presidential candidates, and snagged a picture with Donald Trump Jr at a 2016 NRA dinner.

As part of her deal, Butina pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent and she agreed to co-operate with investigators.
TOO EARLY TO TALK IMPEACHMENT?

Only time will tell whether Mr Trump actually faces an inquiry.

Impeachment is a long and risky process — particularly when control of Congress is split. And not everyone sees eye-to-eye over the prospect of going through with it.

Even within the Democrats there's division. Some, like Texas Representative Al Green, are making the call.

"I think he has to realise that the countdown to impeachment has already started," he said. "He, at some point, will have to choose if he will face impeachment or if he will resign. It will be his choice. The congress will have no choice but to act."

But others, like Ms Pelosi, have implored her fellow Democrats to back off.

"We shouldn't impeach the President for political reasons and we shouldn't not impeach the President for political reasons," she said, noting how the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton backfired on Republicans in the following 1998 elections.

The Australian's Washington correspondent Cameron Stewart suggested it would be "premature" to conclude that Mr Cohen's campaign finance crimes could lead to the President's impeachment.

"There is no precedent for bringing such charges against a sitting president, with lawyers divided over whether this is legally possible, much less whether any conviction would result.

"Any decision by Democrats to pursue an impeachment of Trump in the house is a political one rather than a legal one. The House can impeach him if a majority believes his conduct rises to the level of 'high crimes and misdemeanours'.

"But as things stand, any impeachment by the House would fail to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate which requires a two-thirds majority to impeach and remove a president from office."

He said Mr Trump will more than likely survive the Cohen downfall, but the much-anticipated report of Mr Mueller's investigation could prove more problematic for the President.

A new CNN poll has found declining support for impeachment of Mr Trump, with 43 per cent saying he should be (compared to 47 per cent in September).

It has also been noted that, even if Democrats were able to impeach him in the House with a simple majority, Republicans would still control the US Senate. It would take 20 Republican Senators to remove Mr Trump from office if he were impeached by the House Democrats.

Amid everything, however, the President has resorted to his usual tactic of publicly pretending everything is fine — better than fine, even.

Dismissing the allegations against him as "peanut stuff", he said: "It's hard to impeach somebody who hasn't done anything wrong and who's created the greatest economy in the history of our country. I think people would revolt if that happened."

Whether he believes his own words is another matter.
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