In Depth

Donald Trump’s impeachment trial: what the US media is saying

Excerpts from some of the best coverage so far

The US Senate has approved rules for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump following a marathon first day of debates in Washington.

During nearly 13 hours of discussion in the Senate on Tuesday, Democratic prosecutors “sparred with Mr Trump’s lawyers over the process, while Republicans rejected their demands for more witnesses”, the BBC reports.

Trump is only the third president in US history to face an impeachment trial - so how is the American media interpreting this milestone event? Here are excerpts from some of the best commentaries:

1. Law professor and author Kimberly Wehle for Politico
How Trump has exposed Congress’ self-inflicted weaknesses

“A quarter-century of intensifying partisanship and party-first thinking has brought us to a moment of historic peril in which presidential overreach and congressional deference have combined in ways that seem to affect almost every aspect of the interrelationship of the legislative and executive branches. Impeachment, of course, is foremost among the constitutional friction points the government is confronting, but given the continuing tensions in the Middle East, war powers is easily a close second place. There are at least another four fundamental areas in which Congress’ has failed to vigorously defend its own enumerated powers: emoluments, advice and consent on appointments, budget appropriations, and even the basic power to pass legislation with the force of law. In each case, Congress, either slowly over time or in a sudden collapse, has acted in a way that has redefined a government that increasingly exists only in textbooks.”

2. Columnist Frank Bruni in The New York Times
Let us all now weep for Donald Trump

“He’s always right and yet always wronged. He demands that we marvel at his invincibility even as we tremble at his degradation. He can vanquish any enemy — and his enemies are legion! — but look at how he’s pushed around. Trump takes a textbook oxymoron and gives it presidential form. Behold, at the Resolute Desk, a jumbo shrimp.”

3. Columnist Dana Milbank in The Washington Post
And the White House defence is... well, there isn’t one

“Public pressure on moderate Republican senators had, for the moment, forced [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell to soften a couple of the most egregious trial rules - notably, a plan that would have forced the case to be argued in the middle of the night - but it did nothing to slow McConnell’s pell-mell rush to acquit... Why such a hurry? The answer became apparent as soon as Trump’s lawyers opened their mouths for the first time during the impeachment proceedings. They shouted. They spouted invective. They launched personal attacks against the impeachment managers. But they offered virtually nothing in defence of the president’s conduct, nor anything but a passing reference to Ukraine.”

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For a round-up of the most important stories from around the world - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news agenda - try The Week magazine. Start your trial subscription today –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

4. Former Republican congressman Bob Barr on MSN News
The impeachment trial briefs are in, and the winner is…

“‘Abuse of Power’ is not a crime, and ‘Obstruction of Congress’ is not a crime. No amount of wordsmithing by the House managers can shoehorn either of these ‘offences’ into any criminal statute. Notwithstanding former president Clinton’s valiant but unsuccessful effort to escape impeachment in 1998 by arguing ‘it all depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is’, what is written in the Constitution of the United States means what it says. Lawyers may argue about whether a particular crime constitutes a ‘high’ crime (the House decided in 1998 that perjury and obstruction of justice by a sitting president did meet that criteria). But they never should be permitted to prevail in arguing that behaviour which is not a crime is a crime in order to rid themselves of a president they do not like.”

5. Political commentator Scott Jennings on CNN
The debate over impeachment rules reveals Democrats’ hypocrisy

“Former national security advisor John Bolton was never subpoenaed in the House, despite Democrats claiming to want his testimony; Democrats there opted not to use the courts to compel witnesses over which the Trump administration had claimed executive privilege. For some reason, though,  [House Intelligence Committee chair and impeachment manager Adam] Schiff thinks it is the Senate’s job to do his job for him. Further, the House is still in session! If House Democrats wanted to subpoena or pursue administration witnesses, they could meet tomorrow and do that instead of demanding that Republican Senators - who never thought Trump should have been impeached in the first place - join their partisan crusade.”

Recommended

How Afghanistan is hurtling towards famine and ruin
Afghans at a street market
In Brief

How Afghanistan is hurtling towards famine and ruin

Qatar’s tainted World Cup
Workers at the site of the Lusail Stadium in 2019
Why we’re talking about . . .

Qatar’s tainted World Cup

Wedding ring lost in 1960s potato patch is found
A hand with a wedding ring
Tall Tales

Wedding ring lost in 1960s potato patch is found

‘Did they learn nothing from Baby P?’
Today's newspaper front pages
Today’s newspapers

‘Did they learn nothing from Baby P?’

Popular articles

19 advent calendars for adults
Selection of advent calendars
The wish list

19 advent calendars for adults

Vladimir Putin and his mysterious love life
Vladimir Putin and his now ex-wife Lyudmila Putina
Profile

Vladimir Putin and his mysterious love life

Trump ‘upset his son won’t say he loves him’
Donald and Barron Trump
Tall Tales

Trump ‘upset his son won’t say he loves him’

The Week Footer Banner