Democrats announce two impeachment charges against Trump

Chairman of House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) (2nd-R) speaks as (L-R) Chairman of House Judiciary Committee Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Chairwoman of House Financial Services Committee Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Chairwoman of House Oversight and Reform Committee Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) listen during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol December 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2019

Democrats announce two impeachment charges against Trump

  • The president is alleged to have wielded the power of the presidency for personal and political gain
  • "The evidence of the president's misconduct is overwhelming and uncontested," said House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff

WASHINGTON: Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment Tuesday against US President Donald Trump after weeks of arguing there is overwhelming evidence that the US leader abused his office and deserves to be removed.
If the charges -- abuse of power and obstruction of Congress -- are approved by the full House of Representatives in a vote expected next week, it would put Trump in the historic position of being the third US leader ever impeached and placed on trial in the Senate.
"Our president holds the ultimate public trust," said House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler.
"When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the constitution, he endangers our democracy and he endangers our national security."
Nadler, in a solemn and deeply serious moment for the nation, was joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the US Capitol to lay out the charges facing Trump.
The president is alleged to have wielded the power of the presidency for personal and political gain by pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 US election.
His accusers say he conditioned vital military aid and a much-sought White House meeting on Kiev announcing it would investigate Democratic former vice president Joe Biden, who is the frontrunner to challenge Trump in the 2020 election.
He also pressed his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to probe a debunked Kremlin conspiracy theory that it was Kiev, and not Moscow, that interfered in the 2016 US election.
The charges also focus on Trump's efforts to block Congress from fully investigating his actions -- which Democrats see as a violation of its constitutional right to conduct oversight of the executive branch.
"The evidence of the president's misconduct is overwhelming and uncontested," said House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, who oversaw weeks of public hearings in which witnesses including Trump administration officials and US diplomats testified about the pressure on Ukraine.
"To do nothing would make ourselves complicit in the president's abuse of his high office," Schiff said, adding that Trump's "misconduct goes to the heart of whether we can conduct a free and fair election in 2020."
Trump, who has long assailed the Democrats for pursuing impeachment, maintained his fighting posture early Tuesday, tweeting that the effort to oust him as "sheer Political Madness!"
Democrats on Monday laid out their case for ouster with a nearly 10-hour public hearing in which they declared Trump a "clear and present danger" to national security.
It is widely understood that Democrats were debating whether to unveil a third article of impeachment -- obstruction of justice -- against Trump, but concluded it would be better to keep the charges narrowly focused on Trump's Ukraine pressure effort.
Should Trump be impeached, as expected, he faces a weeks-long trial in January in the US Senate, which is controlled by members of his Republican Party.
Removal from office is unlikely, given that conviction requires a two-thirds vote in the 100-member chamber, and no Republicans have yet signaled they would side with Democrats against the president.


China’s president vows ‘new era’ of Myanmar ties

Updated 18 January 2020

China’s president vows ‘new era’ of Myanmar ties

  • Xi is expected to sign a series of deals

NAYPYIDAW: Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to usher in a “new era” of ties with Myanmar after a red carpet welcome Friday on a state visit aimed at buttressing the embattled government of Aung San Suu Kyi and driving through multibillion-dollar infrastructure deals.

Myanmar fighter jets escorted Xi’s plane as it touched down in Naypyidaw where children presented him with flowers, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency, as he was whisked off to a greeting party.

In addition to being its largest investor, China has become an indispensable ally for Myanmar as it reels from Western isolation over the Rohingya crisis.

But widespread mistrust of Beijing’s ambitions and its influence over armed insurgencies in areas bordering the two countries threaten to undermine the bond.

Xi told Myanmar leaders he was “convinced that the concerted efforts of our two sides will make this visit a success and take the bilateral ties to a new level and into a new era,” Xinhua reported.

During the trip he is expected to sign a series of mammoth infrastructure deals as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The centerpiece of the so-called China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) is a $1.3 billion deep-sea port at Kyaukphyu in central Rakhine state, giving Beijing a gateway to the Indian Ocean.

A high-speed rail link is also on the cards to connect the port and nearby planned industrial zone with the countries’ shared border.

Bilateral trade was worth $16.8 billion last year and Beijing holds the biggest share — around $4 billion or 40 percent — of Myanmar’s foreign debt.

Billions of cubic meters of gas and millions of barrels of oil from offshore rigs are pumped each year across the country into China.

“The next one, two, three decades will be defined by Myanmar’s relationship with China,” said Yangon-based analyst Richard Horsey.

Xi will sit down with Suu Kyi and army chief Min Aung Hlaing in separate meetings on Saturday.

Ahead of the visit Suu Kyi made a rare appearance in Kachin state on the border with China.

Kachin is the site of a planned Chinese-backed $3.6 billion, 6,000 megawatt dam that was mothballed in 2011 in the face of vociferous criticism across the country.

This is thought to have been a personal slight to Xi, who signed off on the Myitsone dam with Myanmar’s then-military junta as vice president in 2009.

Activists are expected to protest in the commercial hub Yangon on Saturday against any reinstatement of the project.

Economic interests aside, Myanmar’s relationship with the superpower has other benefits.

In an op-ed in Myanmar’s state-run media this week, Xi said China supports Myanmar in “safeguarding its legitimate rights and interests and national dignity.”

China shields Myanmar at the United Nations, where pressure is mounting for accountability over the treatment of Rohingya Muslims.

Suu Kyi personally defended her nation against accusations of genocide at the UN’s top court last month after a 2017 military crackdown forced 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.

The alleged atrocities took place in Rakhine, which has since descended into a civil war between the military and an ethnic Rakhine rebel group.

Myanmar has nonetheless declared the state open for business.

While many Western investors are steering clear, China — competing against other regional giants — has few such qualms.

“Xi’s visit will amplify concerns the West is losing Myanmar to China,” said Horsey.

Domestically, Suu Kyi needs economic wins as well as diplomatic support as she heads toward elections due at the end of this year.

Xi’s visit has triggered mixed reactions.

A number of key militant groups — known to be under the shadowy influence of Beijing — welcomed the summit.

But a plethora of activists spoke out against China’s projects and Amnesty International weighed in, decrying the “absolute lack of transparency.”

Rakhine locals, meanwhile, fear they will again be overlooked after previous Beijing-backed infrastructure projects left many without land or livelihoods.

“They didn’t bring any benefits for us, not even any jobs,” Moe Moe Aye from Kyaukphyu SEZ Watch Group said.