Testing American Democracy

The political trial of the president of the United States has begun. After the Democrats in the House of Representatives finally sent its evidence and impeachment charges against the president to the Senate, Chief Justice John Roberts swore in all the senators who will serve as jurors. Although what we will see in the next weeks is a political party struggle, at the source is the question of whether the president betrayed the country by abusing his power to sabotage this year’s presidential election.

Seven members of the House of Representatives will serve as prosecutors at the trial, and present the case for removing Trump from office to the Senate and the entire world. A two-thirds majority of the Senate must agree that, in effect, Trump has to leave. This is unlikely. The Republicans, who have shown blind loyalty to the president, hold the majority in the Senate.

Beyond whatever the final decision will be, the most important thing is that the American public sees what happened so it can form judgment. Trump is seeking reelection and will be on the ballot this November. During the presentation of impeachment charges in the political case, Congress learned of text messages, voicemail and other records that keep pointing to the same thing: the president knew what was happening. Lev Parnas, an associate of the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, said that Trump was aware of everything. The Democrats will try to question him as a witness in the case.

This case arose because during a telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump appeared to ask a favor in exchange for military aid that the United States provides to Ukraine. Trump was very interested in a possible investigation into the son of Joe Biden, who is leading the race for the Democratic presidential nomination and who it appears will be Trump’s main rival in the November election.

In other words, Trump subtly threatened another president in exchange for help with sabotaging the presidential aspirations of his principal opponent. Last week, the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan U.S. agency, issued a report saying what Trump did was illegal.

What is in play here is whether American democracy will be capable of stopping the most authoritarian president in decades. Be it through a political trial, where there is more than sufficient evidence against Trump, or in the November election, the decision should include a profound rejection of everything that the real estate tycoon represents, something that is so contrary to the American union.

If this doesn’t happen, if Trump wins another four years, American institutions will continue to be undermined, and the world will continue to hear about the whims of an erratic populist. That’s what we will see on Tuesday when the first decisions are made in this case.

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