These are momentous days in Washington. People are consumed by the fate of Donald Trump. But, Tony Burman writes, there is much more at stake than The Orange One's future:
It is not the fate of Donald Trump that really matters here. It is the future of America’s democracy — and everyone else’s democracy — that is at risk.
“American democracy is not as exceptional as we sometimes believe,” wrote Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt in their recent book, “How Democracies Die.” “There’s nothing in our Constitution or our culture to immunize us against democratic breakdown … But protecting our democracy requires more than just fright or outrage.”
There are some undeniable facts:
We now know that the U.S. president committed bribery by secretly trying to get Ukraine’s president to investigate the son of Joe Biden, a political rival, ahead of the 2020 presidential election. This was in exchange for $400 million in military aid and a face-to-face meeting at the White House.
But Trump didn’t do this to benefit the nation. In fact, it was totally contrary to years of established U.S. national security policy.
Trump did this to benefit himself — and, probably as a side benefit, to please Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
It's a clear case of bribery. And, under American law, the punishment for bribery -- and impeachment -- is also clear:
Punishment for bribery under U.S. federal law is up to 15 years in prison, but it is also central to the political process of impeachment. Along with treason, it is the only impeachable offence expressly listed in the U.S. Constitution as a “high Crime and Misdemeanor” justifying removal of a president from office.
The Republican Senate, however, will not find Trump guilty -- no matter how strong the case against him:
That’s why the threat to democracy everywhere is so ominous. If Trump succeeds in getting away with it all, his behaviour is certain to become the “new normal” in 21st-century global politics.
The opening hearing revealed what the Republican strategy will be. In order to exonerate Trump, an effort will be made to promote bogus conspiracy theories that point a finger at Ukraine — not Russia — for having interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
It is the latest example of how Russian ideology now appears to drive much of Trump’s foreign policy. Whether about Ukraine, Syria or Europe and NATO, Trump’s talking points are now virtually identical to Putin’s.
In hindsight, it is perhaps not surprising that Trump himself would be so obsequious to his Russian masters. After all, a decade ago, Trump’s business empire was in virtual bankruptcy before Russian oligarchs bailed it out.
Trump laundered Russian mob money. And Vladimir Putin protected Trump from the Russian mob. In return, Putin asked Trump to "do him a favour, though." If these glaring facts are ignored, the American Republic is doomed. And democracy all over the world is in peril.
Image: The Economist