In Depth

Could Donald Trump be impeached?

Explosive testimony from ex-lawyer Michael Cohen threatens to kick-start legal proceedings against president

The testimony to Congress today of Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has reignited speculation over the possible impeachment of the president.

The New York Times has published a copy of Cohen’s introductory remarks, in which he calls Trump a “conman” and a “cheat”. 

Cohen’s statement also says that during the presidential campaign, Trump knew that long-time adviser Roger Stone “was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails”.

Other accusations against the president include claims that he made racist remarks in front of Cohen, such as questioning the intelligence of African-Americans, the US newspaper reports.

But the crucial allegations are likely to come in Cohen’s “account of a payment made to [adult film actress Stormy] Daniels during the 2016 election to buy her silence about an alleged affair”, says Politico. For the first time in public, “Cohen plans to accuse the president of acting criminally in the matter, a charge Trump has long denied”, the website adds. 

According to former Democrat advisor Jamison Foser, Cohen’s testimony neatly aligns with articles used to impeach President Clinton in 1998.

So will Trump be impeached?

Not yet, it seems. Democrats speak of the president’s “oversight responsibilities” when they talk about investigating the Trump administration, and are “not likely to use the word ‘impeachment’, but Cohen’s testimony could be part of their decision-making on any such proceedings”, says The Washington Post.

There’s also plenty of evidence that suggests Republicans “see Cohen as enough of a threat to go after him”, the newspaper adds.

The Republican representative for Florida, Matt Gaetz, set the tone with a tweet suggesting that Trump’s former attorney had been unfaithful to his wife. Gaetz has since deleted the post and apologised following criticism from fellow House members including Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Cohen’s testimony comes as Democratic representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan became “the first congressional lawmakers to sign a pledge to impeach President Trump”, says The Independent

Tlaib exercised little caution last month when she told supporters that the House is going to “impeach the motherf***ker”.

But Pelosi and other key Democrat leaders have gone on the record saying that they will hold off on any impeachment proceedings until Robert Mueller completes his investigation into Trump, his 2016 campaign and any potential collusion with Russia.

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin adds that there is a danger of “impeachment fixations”. Instead of “fodder for articles of impeachment”, the details of the president’s “egregious conduct” should “form the unassailable argument for Republicans to dump him as their nominee, and in the event they do not, for the rest of us, regardless of ideological differences with the other party, to vote Trump out”, she writes. 

Indeed, “reducing the Trump fiasco to a binary choice between impeachment or his survival would relieve voters of the awesome responsibility of self-governance”, Rubin concludes.

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