Tag: impeachment

By Stephen Collinson for CNN

The Trump administration is frenetically throwing up road blocks in a belated grasp for a strategy to slow a Democratic impeachment machine the President is now branding a “coup.”

But the intrigue that has pitched Donald Trump’s presidency into its deepest-ever crisis took a new twist after the independent inspector general from the State Department, Steve Linick, asked for an “urgent” briefing with congressional committees on Wednesday about documents related to the Ukraine scandal. A congressional aide described the request as “highly unusual and cryptically worded.”

The dramatic development came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted to prevent witnesses linked to his department from appearing on Capitol Hill in the coming days. The move appeared to be an attempt to buy time to come up with a long term blueprint to save Trump by turning the politics of impeachment.

Pompeo’s initiative was at least more substantive than Trump’s tweeting and cable news appearances from conspiracy-theory touting supporters that constituted his early defense.

But the sharp Democratic response to Pompeo’s claims of bullying against potential witnesses, and a key source’s decision to show up anyway, suggested that the added gravity of a formal impeachment process could shift Washington’s balance of power.

It is only a week since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally announced an impeachment probe into evidence that Trump pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on his potential 2020 rival Joe Biden. But the drama has turned Washington on its head and comprehensively altered the dynamics of the Trump presidency.
Trump appears under siege from multiple directions. Late Tuesday, for example, The New York Times cited administration officials as saying the President previously suggested fortifying his southern border wall with a trench filled with alligators and snakes and wanted to shoot undocumented migrants in the legs.

Fast-moving developments
The latest fast-moving developments show how Democrats are using their constitutional authority to quickly build a framework for their investigation.

“This is an extraordinary crime. I suspect this is the greatest crime a president has committed in my lifetime,” Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee told CNN’s John Berman Tuesday.
The pace is sure to heat up Wednesday with Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and the President himself expected to hold news conferences.

Trump offered Americans a glimpse into the state of his mind at the end of a tumultuous day with a unfounded tweet that warned illegal attempts were underway to steal the votes and constitutional rights of his supporters.
“As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP,” Trump declared.

Aside from the inflammatory social media posts, the White House clearly understands that its best interests lie in stalling the inquiry for as long as possible, likely with legal challenges challenging subpoenas to give its surrogates time to fog the case and to build public frustration with impeachment.
A day after being subpoenaed for documents related to his role in consultations with Ukraine, Rudy Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer, engaged his own counsel, and in an historical echo chose former Watergate prosecutor Jon Sale.

The former New York mayor has not said if he will comply with the subpoena. But he could be an early test case of the administration’s intentions to gum up the impeachment works with contentious legal challenges that could last for months.
“I really have to study it. I can’t shoot from the hip,” Sale told CNN’s Michael Warren.
“Every time I turn around, Rudy’s on another TV show,” Sale continued. “He and I could have a conversation, and then I turn on the television and he could be doing something else.”

‘Intimidation and bullying’
Pompeo, one of the President’s most valued aides, launched the most serious attempt yet by the administration to disrupt the impeachment investigation.
In a letter to House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, he said the proposed timetable for witnesses to testify in the coming days was too compressed.
In a tweet, the nation’s top diplomat warned the request could be “understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, & treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career (foreign service officers).”

The Democratic response was swift, reflecting an apparent belief among party leaders that they have the upper hand over the administration in the early stage of the probe.
In a letter to Pompeo, who is in Europe, the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees said that holding back testimony “is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry.”

In effect, the chairmen were warning that an attempt to frustrate the impeachment inquiry could eventually itself turn into a rationale for impeachment.
The administration has been largely successful in derailing previous Democratic efforts to oversee the White House by launching legal challenges and sweeping executive privilege claims. But impeachment already looks like a different animal.

The lawmakers also accused Pompeo of intimidating State Department witnesses to protect himself and the Ambassador Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine who had been scheduled for a deposition on Thursday, has made clear he still plans to show up, despite Pompeo’s letter.

The other officials schedules to be deposed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee include former US Ambassador to Kiev Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch, Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl and Ambassador Gordon Sondland — who were mentioned in the whistleblower complaint that helped trigger the impeachment push.

A fifth official — Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent — has overseen policy on Ukraine at the State Department since September 2018 and was previously the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Ukraine.
Yovanovitch, who was previously scheduled to appear Wednesday, will now do so on October 11 with the agreement of both the Committees and counsel, a congressional aide told CNN.

Democrat calls for Trump to be jailed
The President stayed out of sight at the White House on Tuesday. But he was as active as ever on Twitter, seeking to discredit the whistleblower much as he attempted to impugn the credibility of special counsel Robert Mueller.
“If the so-called ‘Whistleblower’ has all second hand information, and almost everything he has said about my ‘perfect’ call with the Ukrainian President is wrong (much to the embarrassment of Pelosi & Schiff), why aren’t we entitled to interview & learn everything about…the Whistleblower,” Trump wrote, decrying another “Democratic hoax.”

In fact, the whistleblower’s complaint was judged urgent and credible by the intelligence community’s independent, Trump-appointed inspector general for the intelligence community Michael Atkinson.
And on Monday, Atkinson issued a highly unusual statement rejecting the central plank of Trump’s argument — that the whistleblower based his complaint on hearsay.

While events seemed to be running largely in the favor of Democrats on Tuesday, there was another sign of a breach in discipline that could harm their efforts to avoid the political pitfalls of impeachment.

“I’m calling on the GOP to stop Trump’s filthy talk of whistleblowers being spies & using mob language implying they should be killed,” California Rep. Maxine Waters tweeted. “Impeachment is not good enough for Trump. He needs to be imprisoned & placed in solitary confinement.”

The tweet was a far cry from Pelosi’s request for her party to approach the impeachment process in a non-partisan and “prayerful” manner.

CNN’s Kylie Atwood and Manu Raju contributed to this story.

We have been here before: glued to our screens on the promise that Jacob Zuma is about to lose his job. Time and time again, he survives, and we’re left to rue our premature excitement. SONA 2018 may have just changed all that.

President Jacob Zuma could well be on the cusp of a recall. When you think about all his previous scandals, then it becomes apparent this is an incredibly tight spot for the President.

Does no SONA mean no Zuma?
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete stood on the steps of Parliament, and delivered a damaging announcement to Zuma’s bid for survival. Mbete revealed that the threat of disruptions led to her writing to the President asking him to postpone.

At the same time, Mbete said they were informed that President Zuma was already in the process of writing to her to request a postponement.

It seems today like the ANC are finally putting the final nail in the coffin of Count Zuma. Yes, he’s risen from the dead before – staying in a job against improbable odds – but now it seems his political career is six feet under. This judgement on SONA 2018 is something not even the Teflon one can recover from.

Will Jacob Zuma lose his job on Wednesday 7 February?

The ANC NEC cancelled a long-awaited and historic meeting that was to be held-today, in which the future of the President was to be discussed. Don’t be fooled by all the diplomatic language, here. They want Zuma out, and are pushing harder than ever before.

If Jacob Zuma had any long term future with as a leader, he needed to deliver SONA. It would have been a defiant statement of staying power, and a bruising PR defeat for Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to revitalise the ANC.

Will he resign?
Despite the very public lack of support from him in the government’s hierarchy, it is our view he still won’t go of his own accord. And the only way out from here will be a recall, which looks set to be confirmed this week.

In Mbete’s Cape Town Address, she effectively condemned JZ to the politcal wilderness. The Speaker seemingly suggested that SONA cannot happen whilst Zuma is the Head of State:

“The postponement will be no longer than one week. We need to consider the mood of the country, and only go ahead when we know we’ll have a very productive SONA.”

“We have been meeting with ANC stakeholders and participants since last Monday. We aren’t just looking at logistics, we’re listening to our political voices. We are continuing to interact with Cyril Ramaphosa on this, for when we talk about Parliament, we talk to this office.”

When will SONA 2018 take place?
Interestingly, Mbete said she’d expect to see SONA take place next week. So it would seem she feels Zuma hasn’t much, if any, time left. ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu also stuck the knife in, saying that the party “welcomes the decision made in Parliament”. He wouldn’t be drawn on when Zuma would face recall, though.

If this is Zexit eve, then it looks like he’s going down fighting. The certain indignity of a recall may just be the most fitting end to a Presidency swamped with problems.

By Tom Head for The South African 

The rand eased in early trade on Tuesday, relinquishing some of the gains it notched up in a previous session on news that the ruling political party, the ANC was deciding whether to cut short president Jacob Zuma’s tenure as head of state.

According to a report by Reuters, the currency is expected to trade in the range of R12.00 to R12.25 on Wednesday, after it eased off its highs against the dollar during European trade on Monday.
The currency is tracking a wave of positive sentiment following the appointment of deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, as ANC leader in December, while the ruling party’s top leadership has also decided that Zuma must leave office, with speculation about the timing.

Ramaphosa is expected to adopt more business-friendly policies, even though he enjoys the support of the communist party and the biggest labor union federation. His election as ANC leader helped boost the rand 10% last month.

At 09h55 on Tuesday, the rand softened against the dollar, but firmed against the pound and the euro:
• Dollar/Rand: R12.09 0.33%
• Pound/Rand: R16.90 -0.13%
• Euro/Rand: R14.83 -1.43%

A report by The Guardian late on Monday reiterated that plans are in place to oust Zuma within the next two weeks, despite comments from secretary general Ace Magashule that NEC had not yet made a decision on the future of the current president.

Investec Bank economist Annabel Bishop said in a note at the start of the week that the rand could strengthen to as much as R11 to the dollar, should the president be forced to step down.
Further strengthening would also cause fuel price cuts and place downward pressure on inflation, with the possibility of the rand moving towards R10 to the dollar should Ramaphosa continue to make reforms and promote growth, she said.

Bloomberg market analyst Robert Brand also remained positive on the currency, stating that it was possible for Ramaphosa to continue the rally by continuing to clamp down on corrupt state-owned enterprises such as Eskom, and possibly even move away from some of the ANC’s more populist ideas (such as land reform) so as to encourage continued foreign investment.

Source: BusinessTech

Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe’s president on Tuesday, shortly after parliament began an impeachment process to end his nearly four decades of rule.

The 93-year-old clung on for a week after an army takeover and expulsion from his own ruling Zanu-PF party, which also told him to leave power.

Wild celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of parliament when speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mugabe’s resignation and suspended the impeachment procedure.

The origin of Mugabe’s sudden downfall lies in rivalry between members of Zimbabwe’s ruling elite over who will succeed him, rather than popular protests against his rule. The army seized power after Mugabe sacked Zanu-PF’s favourite to succeed him, Emmerson Mnangagwa, to smooth a path to the presidency for his wife Grace, known to her critics as “Gucci Grace” for her reputed fondness for luxury shopping.

Mnangagwa, a former security chief known as The Crocodile, is expected to take over as president.

Source: Business Live

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