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Washington Diary: Royal Turf War between Donald Trump and President Barack Obama

"Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!" wrote Trump. "As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th"

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Donald Trump and Barack Obama at White House. VOA

Washington, December 31, 2016: One country, one flag and one President. Then there is the President-elect. One thinks “Yes, we (still) can.” The other can’t wait to undo it before his date with destiny — January 20.

Twenty days before Donald Trump gets the keys of the White House, sparks are flying in a right royal turf war between him and its first black tenant, Barack Obama.

Call it a desire to save his legacy or pique over the stunning defeat of his chosen successor, Hillary Clinton, Obama is trying to erect “roadblocks”, as the mogul sees them, on issues ranging from environment to ties with Israel and Russia.

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To “punish” Russia in what American spooks branded operation “Grizzly Steppe” to help Trump in the presidential poll, Obama expelled 35 Russian “spies” and closed two Russian recreation compounds.

For their “malicious cyber activity,” and phishing expeditions, Russians allegedly used several outlandish secret code names like “Seadaddy,” “Hammertoss,” “Energetic Bear,” “Fancy Bear and “Carberp.”

Ever sceptical of the spooks’ finding that the Russians had hacked into Democratic Party and the rival Clinton campaign chief’s emails, Trump was not impressed. The country needs to “move on to bigger and better things,” he responded with atypical restraint.

“Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people,” Trump agreed to meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week “to be updated about the facts of this situation.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin too did not take the bait. Declining “to create problems for American diplomats” in a deft political move, he instead invited children of US diplomats to celebrate the New Year and Russian Orthodox Christmas at the Kremlin.

Breaking rank with his own Republican Party leaders, Trump, who wants to mend fences with Moscow called Putin “very smart!” for his “great move on delay” in responding to the ‘lame duck’ Obama administration’s provocation.

Earlier, as the US abstained on a UN resolution condemning Israel for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a livid Trump tweeted: “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect.”

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“Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!” wrote Trump. “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th.”

“Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going to be a smooth transition – NOT!” Trump complained in another tweet.

But what really got the mogul’s goat was Obama’s claim that he would have defeated Trump if he was allowed to run for a third term.

“President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me. He should say that but I say NO WAY!” Trump responded though Obama’s criticism appeared directed more at Clinton.

“Hillary Clinton performed wonderfully,” but sure of victory, she “played it safe,” and missed opportunities to present a narrative that would have appealed to voters, Obama suggested.

But loathe to give up a good fight, Trump doubled down saying, “Obama campaigned hard (and personally) in the very important swing states, and lost. The voters wanted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!””The world was gloomy before I won – there was no hope. Now the market is up nearly 10 percent and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars!” he tweeted.

Taking yet another jab at Obama, the mogul thanked himself as “the US Consumer Confidence Index surged. to its HIGHEST LEVEL IN MORE THAN 15 YEARS! Thanks Donald!”

Obama may or may not have won in a presidential contest against Trump, but he bested the billionaire 22 percent to 15 percent in a Gallup poll to retain his title as America’s most admired man for the ninth year.

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And Hillary Clinton might have lost the race for the White House, but for the 15th year in a row, she was America’s most admired woman – a title she has won a record 21 times.

Another AP-Times Square Alliance poll found that Democrats were more likely to say 2016 was worse for them with a Miami University professor using just three words to explain why: “Trump, Trump, Trump.”

But having won the poll that mattered, Trump did not fire a tweet to contest either poll or call them rigged as winners and losers of 2016 mulled what it could be and what 2017 would be. (IANS)

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“Let it Come Out, Let the People See,” Trump on Mueller Report

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense

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U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Akron-Canton airport in Canton, Ohio, March 20, 2019. VOA

Democratic congressional leaders have, for the time being, ruled out pursuing impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. That could all change depending on what is in the eagerly awaited report on the Russia investigation being prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller.

On his way to Ohio Wednesday, Trump told reporters outside the White House that the public should have access to the Mueller report.

“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.”

The decision by Democratic congressional leaders to pass on impeachment seems to be mindful of recent history, especially the Republican-led impeachment effort against President Bill Clinton in 1998.

In announcing her opposition to impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said simply that Trump “wasn’t worth it.”

Pelosi is sticking to her position despite pressure from liberal activists.

“Impeachment is a divisive issue in our country, and let us see what the facts are, what the law is, and what the behavior is of the president,” Pelosi recently told reporters at the Capitol.​

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“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.” VOA

Trump: ‘Great job’

For President Trump, the idea of impeachment is, not surprisingly, a non-starter.

“Well, you can’t impeach somebody that is doing a great job. That is the way I view it,” Trump said when asked about the issue in January.

Late last year, Trump told Reuters that he was not concerned about impeachment.

“I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” he said.

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense.

“I don’t think it is good for the country,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters last week. “The Democrats made a decision (to want to impeach) on the day President Trump one.”

Some Democrats want to keep pushing, including former Hillary Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines. Reines wrote recently in the New York Times that Democrats would be doing a “civic duty” to pursue impeachment.

“There is a mounting political cost to not impeaching Mr. Trump,” Reines wrote last week. “He will hail it as exoneration and he will go into the 2020 campaign under the banner, ‘I Told You So.’”​

Polls say no

Recent polls show most voters do not favor impeachment at this time. A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month found that 59 percent of those surveyed do not think House Democrats should initiate impeachment proceedings against the president, while 35 percent support the idea.

Given that the 2020 election cycle is underway, Democrats may prefer to have the voters try to oust Trump during next year’s election, according to George Washington University analyst Matt Dallek.

“By the time impeachment proceedings were even to ramp up, you are talking about the end of 2019 or early 2020,” Dallek told VOA this week. “That creates its own complication because there is another remedy for removing a president and it is called the election.”

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FILE – Then-first lady Hillary Clinton watches her husband, President Bill Clinton, pause as he thanks those Democratic members of the House of Representatives who voted against his impeachment, Dec. 19, 1998. VOA

Political risk

Democrats clearly recall what happened to Bill Clinton in 1998. Clinton lied about and tried to cover up his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to his impeachment by the House. Clinton remained in office after he was acquitted in a trial in the Senate.

Historically, impeachment has been a rare event. Clinton was only the second president impeached by the House. Andrew Johnson was the first back in 1868. Johnson avoided removal by a single vote in the Senate.

Presidential impeachments have been rare and that is by design, according to University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato.

“They (the founders) did not want presidents impeached and convicted and thrown out of office for minor offenses. They expected Congress to do it only in extreme circumstances.”

Republicans paid a price for the Clinton impeachment, losing five House seats in the 1998 midterm elections. And Sabato said that lesson could have resonance for Democrats today as they mull impeaching Trump.

“Given the fact that the Republicans took a wounded Bill Clinton and made him almost invulnerable for the rest of his term, it should serve as a warning to Democrats,” he said.

Experts also note that the damage to Republicans from the Clinton impeachment was not long-lasting. George W. Bush narrowly beat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, and the political fallout from Clinton’s scandal may have cost Gore the presidency.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2019. VOA

Senate obstacle

The biggest obstacle facing any impeachment effort of Trump is the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats would have to bring over at least 20 Republican senators in any impeachment trial in order to get a conviction and remove the president from office.

A vote to impeach a president only requires a majority vote in the House, now controlled by Democrats. But in a Senate trial, it would take 67 of 100 senators to vote for conviction in order to remove the president from office, and Democrats concede that is not a possibility at the moment.

“It has less than zero chance of passing the Senate,” Sabato said. “Why would you go through all this in the House of Representatives, torpedo your entire agenda to impeach Trump in order to send it to the Senate to have him exonerated and not convicted?”

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FILE – President Richard M. Nixon and his wife, Pat Nixon, stand together in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Aug. 9, 1974. VOA

Nixon case

President Richard Nixon was not impeached over the Watergate scandal in 1974, but the process was well underway. The House began impeachment proceedings through the House Judiciary Committee and was preparing to move Articles of Impeachment to the House floor when Nixon decided to resign.

Several Republican senators including Barry Goldwater went to the White House and made it clear to Nixon that he had lost Republican support and would not survive an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Some analysts predict that President Trump could face renewed calls for his ouster depending on the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I think if the Mueller report indicates some serious wrongdoing by the president and his campaign, it really empowers Democrats to begin deliberating how to move forward with impeachment proceedings,” said Brookings Institution scholar John Hudak.

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But other experts caution that it would have to be something quite serious for Republicans to even consider abandoning the president.

Given the lack of bipartisan support for impeachment at the moment, it does seem more likely that Trump will face the voters again in 2020 before he has to contend with a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry in the House. (VOA)