The turmoil surrounding the Trump White House continues to hold most of the interest in Washington.
The Monitor analysis looks at the increased talk about removing Trump from office. However, the analysis indicates a close look at the US Constitution shows that removing Trump will be much harder than most think.
Think Tanks Activity Summary
The Washington Institute argues that Turkey can ally with Syrian Kurds at sometime in the future. They note, “Turkey would do well to keep in mind that Kurdish political and military interests writ large have diverged geographically, especially in the past five years. Just as Syria’s Kurds, along with their parties, movements, militias, and institutions, are increasingly distinct from Turkey’s own Kurdish citizens, so too are they even more sharply distinct from their Kurdish cousins in Iraq. Indeed, most Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran have chosen to downplay the pan-Kurdish dream in favor of separately seeking their rights inside (or, in the KRG case, perhaps outside) their respective countries. This emerging new reality gives Turkey more room to maneuver on these issues, and in particular to work steadily to separate the PYD from the PKK instead of intermittently lumping them together.”
The American Foreign Policy Council looks at the Iranian nuclear deal at its second anniversary. They note, “the agreement has not succeeded in altering the behavior of Iran’s ayatollahs, as the Obama administration had fervently hoped. To the contrary, it has helped to reinvigorate the global ambitions of Iran’s radical regime. After laboring for years under international sanctions and with limited means to make its foreign policy vision a reality, the Islamic Republic is now in the throes of a landmark strategic expansion. Long moribund as a result of international sanctions, the Iranian regime’s military modernization efforts have kicked into high gear, entailing plans to acquire tens of billions of dollars in new arms from suppliers such as Russia and China, as well as a significant expansion of its national cyber capabilities. Over time, this drive can be expected to significantly strengthen the Iranian regime’s strategic capabilities, as well as the potential threat that it can pose to U.S. and allied forces in the Middle Eastern theater.”
The CSIS looks at the US, Russia and the Middle East and see dramatic differences between US and Russian goals and strategy. They note, “Seen broadly, the United States and its allies have been playing for “victory” in the Middle East, seeking to promote economic and political systems that further stability. Russia, by contrast, seems eager to play for a tie. Arguably, Russia cannot “win”—compared to the United States, it is “outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, and out-planned.” But Russia can be a spoiler, carving out spheres of influence and using the limited strength it has to block others’ plans. For the United States and its allies, which have devoted trillions of dollars and vast efforts to create resilient governments that participate in multilateral systems that foster wide interests, the Russian drive toward emphasizing narrow security measures not only impedes the Western construct, but it also affects the trajectory of the region.”
The CSIS looks at the lessons from the conquest of Mosul. They conclude, “The most critical aspects of strategy are whether to fight, what levels of resources are required, and whether the U.S. effort should continue or resources should be shifted to other needs. The U.S. is now deeply involved in a wide range of conflicts, and the number of extremist and regional threats continues to grow. The U.S. needs to make far more demanding choices in choosing its military involvements, and to exercise far more triage in deciding its level of effort and when to sustain involvement. As Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan have shown in different ways, this requires regional strategies rather than just country strategies. Given the spread of extremism, it will also lead to more hard choices about committing resources to long and difficult efforts that require full Congressional and public support…Open-ended legislation that permits “long wars” to continue without such action and review are not responsible public policy.”
The American Enterprise Institute argue that Al Jazeera isn’t the only media tool that Qatar has. They mention, “Middle East Eye (MEE) — an increasingly prominent web portal — often obscures its finances, but it increasingly fills the gap as Qatar’s chief agent of influence. Groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International incorporate MEE stories, as do newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post… it acts far less as a traditional journalistic outlet and far more as an English-language front for Qatari-supported groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.”
The Carnegie Endowment notes Tunisia’s border regions remain hotbeds of social discontent and agitation. They note, “Tunisian coastal elites fear and misunderstand the bitter resentment in the border communities, making it harder to secure the country from continuing terrorist threats. The violent extremist groups based in these communities feed on a deep well of disillusionment with the democratic transition and prey on the growing sense of emasculation, disempowerment, and helplessness among Tunisian youth. The Tunisian government’s narrow focus on combating extremist ideology is distracting from addressing the real drivers of radicalization.”
The Cato Institute argues that legislation that prohibits anti-Israel boycotts is bad. They see it as a free speech issue and note, “Of particular concern, free-speech-wise: S. 720 creates new liability arising from “requests” both to join a boycott and to furnish information to facilitate boycotts. Although the meaning of the new language is far from clear, it likely means that the bill would ban a swath of previously legal speech about boycotts.”
The Heritage Foundation argues that America’s future lies with Israel and India. They note, “From terrorist attacks to Islamist ideology, the United States, Israel and India have the same problem—stopping terrorist murderers, dangerous ideologues and building common cause with the breath of the Islamic world that rejects the violence and extremism that affects them worst of all. Few topics merit joint discussions and action more.”
Will Trump Last Four Years?
Ways he can be removed
Calls for Trump’s impeachment came as soon as he won the election last November. However, the calls from Democrats (and some Republicans) have grown since he came to power in January. Several liberal publications like The Atlantic have called for his removal and this week even President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer called for Trump’s impeachment for calling for an investigation of Hillary Clinton.
However, it is much harder to remove a president than many imagine. In fact, Democrat plots to remove Trump fall into the same realm of fancy as the plans to prevent him from winning the Republican nomination or taking office by preventing his election by the Electoral College. They are possible, but the reality of the situation makes it much harder.
Before considering removal scenarios, remember that Trump still has a solid voter base that is just around 40%. Even the latest polls show that most voters prefer he not be impeached. That means unless something dramatic happens, any attempt to remove him would be politically dangerous for the opposition.
We will look at four scenarios. The first is impeachment. The second is a peaceful transition via resignation. The third is by using the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution. The final one is a “quasi” or “extralegal” method.
The most frequently mentioned method for removing Trump is impeachment. However, in the 240 years of the United States, it has never been successful. Two presidents have been impeached, but neither of them were convicted and removed from office. The first was Andrew Johnson 150 years ago (Johnson was the vice president for Lincoln and took office when Lincoln was assassinated in 1865). The second impeachment was of Bill Clinton 20 years ago.
The standard for impeachment is politically high. The Constitution calls for impeachment for, “Treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
The problem is that at this time, there is no evidence Trump committing treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
Some have argued that impeachment is okay in order to remove a president that is a threat to the current government of the US or is doing something that they feel is immoral. These include investigating Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, firing the Attorney General or Special Prosecutor.
The problem with this rational is that these actions are legal and constitutional for the president to do. And, any attempt to “criminalize” such actions would set a dangerous precedent for the future. Even liberal law professors agree that this is a dangerous route to take.
If clear documentary evidence of Trump committing crimes came forth or the Democrats took over the House of Representatives in 2018, they could pass articles of impeachment because it only requires a simple majority.
The problem is the US Senate, where the trial takes place, and which requires 67 votes to convict. That is a high hurdle given the fact that Trump remains very popular in many parts of the country, as was seen this week in the reception he got at the Boy Scout jamboree and the rally in Youngstown, Ohio. Baring clear criminal behavior, Trump would have enough support to survive such a challenge.
There is also the political cost of an impeachment, as was seen by Republicans in the mid term elections in 1998. Voters were unhappy with a Congress involved in impeachment rather than solving the problems of the country. And, they punished the GOP for its action.
Consequently, don’t expect the Congress to opt for impeachment unless they have a clear case to prosecute.
Peaceful transition through resignation
This could be called the “Nixon Option.” Once clear evidence come out that Nixon had tried to obstruct the investigation into Watergate, Nixon’s support collapsed and senior GOP congressmen and senators went to the White House and asked Nixon to resign. They argued that staying in office would damage the Republican Party in the upcoming elections.
Nixon did resign. However, the GOP suffered one of its worst election cycles in 1974 anyway.
This, however, is the most peaceful type of transition and would do the least damage to the US.
Unless Trump gets tired of the opposition and just resigns, the chances that he resigns in the next 3 ½ years is low. As we noted before, his current support is unlikely to collapse unless clear evidence of a major crime comes out.
Although there are Republican leaders who would prefer Trump to be out of office, Trump’s voter base is still strong and anyone in the GOP trying to force Trump out of office now would most likely damage their own chances in the next election.
25th Amendment of the Constitution
Some prefer this option as it can be done quickly and avoids the months of rancor of an impeachment and trial.
The 25th Amendment, proposed by Congress and ratified by the states in the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, provides the procedures for replacing the president or vice president in the event of death, removal, resignation, or incapacitation. The Watergate scandal of the 1970s saw the application of these procedures, first when Gerald Ford replaced Spiro Agnew as vice president, then when he replaced Richard Nixon as president, and then when Nelson Rockefeller filled the resulting vacancy to become the vice president.
Section 4 is the section that is applicable for the current situation. It states, “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”
In other words, if Vice President Pence and the majority of the president’s cabinet decide that Trump is unable to discharge the position of president, the Vice President becomes acting president.
Of course, in this case, Vice President Pence is the key player. If Pence doesn’t feel the Trump is incapacitated, this option will not work. If he does, the transfer of power could just take hours.
While the 25th Amendment allows for a quick transfer of power, the aftershocks could rip the nation apart because it also allows the president to challenge any charges of incapacity. It says, “Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.”
In other words, if Pence says Trump is unable to be president, Trump can challenge it. If the Vice President and majority of the cabinet continue to say the President is unable to carry out the office of president, it goes to Congress to determine the fitness of Trump. It would take a 2/3 vote in both the House and Senate to remove Trump – which would be harder than impeaching Trump.
Needless to say, the 21 days that Congress has to determine the fitness of Trump would be a politically unstable time that could see civil unrest as pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces take to the streets in order to influence their congressmen and senators. And, no doubt, the losers of the vote would probably remain in the streets rioting.
This is not an option that would do the government or nation any good.
Quasi or extralegal methods
This is the most unlikely scenario. It assumes massive demonstrations against Trump similar to the so-called Arab Spring or the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine.
The protests would have to be widespread, large, and receiving the tacit support of military and law enforcement. This would place the president in a position to either resign or flee the country.
Although there are segments of the population that are upset with Trump, given the protests held in the last few months (when the weather has been the most favorable for protesting), there is not the level of opposition to Trump that would engender widespread protests.
In addition, there is no evidence that either the military or law enforcement are upset with Trump enough to tacitly support his illegal ouster.
While this may be the dream scenario of some revolutionaries, it is very unlikely.
Despite what the betting houses in England say, the chances that Trump will leave office before 2020 are remote at this point in time.
First, Trump has a sizable degree of support and polls show that those people who voted for Trump are standing by him. Trumps’ two rallies this week prove it. Politicians who ignore this are making a big mistake.
Second, unless solid documentary evidence comes out (not leaks to newspapers), that support will remain behind him. And, few Republicans will vote to get rid of Trump without such evidence.
Third, the US Constitution does allow for removal of the president, but both methods are quite difficult unless the president’s support has collapsed as Nixon’s did in 1974.
Resignation and a peaceful transition are likely only if solid evidence Trump exists and his political support has collapsed. Then he may resign to avoid impeachment as Nixon did.
Finally, the relative failure of anti-Trump demonstration in the last few months indicates that there isn’t the fervor in the US to illegally oust Trump.
In looking at the dynamics behind any ouster of Trump, one must look at where Trump’s support lies and where the opposition comes from. Trump is an outsider and his support comes from outside the Northeast and Pacific Coast. Polls show he remains strong there and voters still like his promise to fight Washington.
Meanwhile, it is Washington that is trying to oust Trump.
As long as voters in Middle America don’t like Washington and Washington doesn’t like Trump, he will keep the support to not only stay in office, but likely win reelection in 2020.
America’s Future Is with India and Israel
By James Jay Carafano
July 24, 2017
From the Indo-Pacific to the Mediterranean, a diplomatic transformation is underway. The winds of change are blowing not from Beijing, but from Delhi. President Donald Trump has an opportunity to harness some of that power to help fill the sails of America’s global leadership. The White House is expected to unveil its national security strategy some time later this year. There is no question that it will differ from George W. Bush and Barack Obama’s strategies. Bush leaned well into the headwind with a muscular strategy that tried to fix big problems. Obama tried the opposite, disengaging from global conflicts and competition. Trump looks to land somewhere in the middle—disinterested in regime change and nation building, but willing to push U.S. influence forward to safeguard vital national interests.
Senate’s Israel Anti-Boycott Act Has Good Intentions, but Bad Results
By Walter Olson
July 22, 2017
A bill sponsored by roughly half the members of Congress would — so we are warned by New York Magazine, at least — “make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel” and “make avoiding the purchase of Israeli goods for political reasons a federal crime.” Would the bill really do that? No, not as sweepingly as those passages suggest. But even shorn of the exaggeration, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720), sponsored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), is plenty bad enough. By punishing boycott participation grounded in political belief, it would infringe on individual liberty. I don’t like the BDS (“Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions”) movement one bit, but sponsors of this bill — who include conservatives like Sens. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Mario Rubio (R-FL), and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), as well as progressives like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) — need to face some tough questions about how it squares with the First Amendment.
Russia, the United States, and the Middle East
By Jon B. Alterman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
July 21, 2017
We don’t know much about what was said when U.S. President Donald Trump sat across from Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit on July 7, but we do know they talked a lot about the Middle East. By his own account, Trump told Putin, “There’s so much killing in Syria. We got to solve Syria.” Russia has been playing a more active role in the Middle East in the last five years, and before committing to strategic cooperation with Russia, it is helpful to judge Russia’s objectives and strategies in the region. It is easier to grasp Russian strategy by contrasting it with Chinese strategy. China has a large stake in the region’s trajectory, relying on the Middle East for more than 60 percent of its imported energy. China has an expanding economic footprint, as trade and investment increase and Chinese contractors grab a multi-billion dollar share of infrastructure projects. Despite its rising interests, China’s quite evident ambition is to expand its economic footprint without taking the expensive step of expanding its security footprint. China seeks to complement the U.S. security presence with its own economic presence, not diminish it.
The Real Lessons of Mosul (and Sixteen Years of War in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria)
By Anthony H. Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
July 19, 2017
Driving most ISIS forces out of Mosul is an important victory at the tactical level. The fight in Mosul is still a work in progress, but Iraq is close enough to driving ISIS fully out of the city to show Iraqi forces have steadily improved over time, and the combination of Iraqi forces, U.S. airpower, and a carefully tailored U.S. train and assist mission has had important successes. It is scarcely surprising, therefore, that there is a rush to declare the “lessons” the U.S. should learn from the initial phases of this Iraqi victory in Mosul, and to treat that battle as the culmination of a new and more successful approach to fighting extremism and asymmetric wars. If there is any lesson of war that the United States should learn from the more than a decade and a half of previous fighting, however, it is not to declare “mission accomplished” on the basis of even the greatest tactical victory.
Qatar’s other covert media arm
By Michael Rubin
American Enterprise Institute
July 25, 2017
As the current crisis between Qatar and many moderate Arab states approaches its second month, one of the key complaints which the anti-Qatar coalition has voiced is about Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite channel which was once the most watched Arabic station. Al Jazeera and its supporters argue that the station’s hard-hitting reporting is simply the manifestation of press freedom in a region sorely lacking it. Al Jazeera’s detractors, however, say it is an engine of extremism which fans the flames of terrorism and actively seeks to destabilize regional states. Al Jazeera runs several different channels. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain object to Al Jazeera in Arabic which promotes the Muslim Brotherhood line and often seems to cross the line between news reporting and incitement. According to a State Department cable describing conversations between Qatari authorities and US diplomats, Qatar acknowledged that policy role and “leverage” which Al Jazeera represented for the Qatari state.
The Geographic Trajectory of Conflict and Militancy in Tunisia
By Anouar Boukhars
July 20, 2017
More than six years after the revolution that ousted former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s border regions remain hotbeds of social discontent and agitation. Aggrieved youth increasingly express their anger through fiery protests, street violence, and in some cases violent extremism. In response to this ongoing social unrest and terrorism, the Tunisian government has developed hardline security policies, whose effects often exacerbate social tensions, political violence, and militancy. Breaking this vicious cycle requires Tunisia’s government to rethink its approach to the border regions.
Still A Bad Deal
By Ilan Berman
American Foreign Policy Council
July 18, 2017
Last Friday marked the two-year anniversary of the Obama administration’s signature foreign policy achievement: the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, that agreement was intended as a solution to Iran’s persistent nuclear ambitions, and as a vehicle to reboot the Iranian regime’s relationship with the world. Two years on, it’s clear that the deal has indeed been transformative – for the Iranian regime, at least. For America and its allies, however, it has expanded the gravity of the contemporary threat posed by the Islamic Republic.
Turkey Can Ally with Syria’s Kurds Someday
By David Pollock
The July 5 headline in Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, quoting Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus reads as follows: “Turkey Says It’s Not Declaring War on YPG [Yekineyen Parastina Gel or People’s Protection Units],” the main Syrian Kurdish militia just across the border. But, Kurtulmus added, “if Turkey sees a YPG movement in northern Syria that is a threat to it, it will retaliate in kind.” That typically tough yet carefully conditional quote raises a crucial, if often overlooked, factual point. The YPG has in fact not threatened Turkey, nor even Turkish forces inside Syria, ever since 2012. It was in July of that year, exactly five years ago, when the Syrian Kurdish militia took over much of the border area. And it was then that it promised, in an agreement brokered by Turkey’s ally President Masoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, to focus on Syria exclusively and refrain from attacking Turkey — or even from supporting attacks against it by the YPG’s parent movement, the PKK (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistane or Kurdistan Workers’ Party)…