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7. November 2019 | Between Impeachment and Second Term

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On Thursday, 11 November, CASSIS welcomed former Congresswoman Barbara Jean Comstock and former Congressman Raymond Eugene Green at CASSIS to talk about the perspectives of the Trump administration in an event co-hosted by the Amerikahaus Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW) e.V. and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. In view of continuous upheavals in the current U.S. administration, the event addressed some timely questions surrounding the administration’s future: What are the odds of a successful impeachment procedure? How will it affect the next presidential election? And will the Trump Administration continue in office after 2020 despite the current turmoil?

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Although faced with its own challenges, Europe is especially looking across the Atlantic in these turbulent times. During her presentation, Barbara J. Comstock, a Republican from northern Virginia who was elected to Congress two times, highlighted the strong relationship between Germany and the U.S. despite challenging times, and stated that the continuation of transatlantic relations is a priority for both Republicans and Democrats. According to her, this currently seems to be one of the few issues with bipartisan support in the U.S. Comstock described the nature of politics – not only in the U.S., but all around the world – as becoming more and more partisan. She explained that the current impeachment proceedings are the fourth proceedings in U.S. history and laid out some differences in the way the various presidents handled the issue. While President Clinton, for example, decided to not talk about the impeachment procedure and continue the politics “he was elected for”, President Trump has followed the opposing approach. Thus, a large portion of U.S. media coverage and the public attention is currently directed towards the impeachment proceedings. She also made the point that the impeachment proceedings may carry bad implications for many democratic candidates in the next presidential election. Senators who are running for the presidential office will have to be present in the senate for the proceedings and be unable to spend this time on the campaign trail. In her eyes, Joe Biden will be the beneficiary of these circumstances as he does not currently hold a public office. The Congresswoman concluded with a last remark: In view of the lecture’s title, she stated that it is in fact possible that both events – impeachment and a second term – may occur together. If an impeachment is not followed by a second vote determining that Trump cannot take a federal office again, he may very well become the first president to be impeached by the House and subsequently run for reelection.

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Following her presentation, Raymond E. Green, a Democrat from Texas who served as a Congressman on federal level for 26 years as well as on state level for 20 years, agreed with Comstock’s assessment of the transatlantic relations. He stated that President Trump may prefer to hold U.S. enemies closer than friends, but that the country as a whole is not interested in severing alliances with longstanding allies. He also condemned the President’s attempt to make the Ukrainian President investigate Joe Biden’s son: According to Green, Trump’s offenses against the United States sharply exceed the severity of Bill Clinton’s actions. He also condemned the president’s immigration policy and said this might be another reason for impeachment. On the other hand, the Congressman also made it clear that, whether or not the impeachment procedure is based on one or more items, the Congress and the Senate will have to vote on each of these. Considering the probability of a successful impeachment procedure, Green finally expressed his belief that the number of votes in the senate will not be high enough to push through the impeachment.


Following these short presentations, moderator Dr. Hendrik Ohnesorge, Research Fellow and Managing Assistant at the Center for Global Studies (Bonn University), opened the discussion by asking whether some Republicans might change their mind now that the impeachment proceedings are broadcasted on television. Barbara Comstock replied that she believes the Democrats made a mistake by not going public earlier and bringing witnesses to the public. On the other hand, she also warned that the American people might get frustrated when media coverage is dominated by internal disputes. Green countered that the Democrats did not come out public earlier due to systemic restrictions and the constitutional principle that legal criminal prosecution is accompanied by the right to be heard by a jury, whereas media speculations do not have to adhere to the same standards. When coming back to the differences between President Clinton’s and President Trump’s handling of the impeachment procedure, Green raised the point that President Trump runs the state like a company – and that he appeared to be treating the United States like he owns that company. Comstock further argued that Clinton used to attack his enemies in an ugly manner, expressing her fear that similar tactics will be employed in the present.

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Hendrik Ohnesorge also asked whether it was in fact a smart move for Democrats to initiate impeachment inquiries instead of focusing on winning the next election. According to Green, one does not rule out the other in this regard. He also considered Joe Biden to be the most promising democratic candidate. Comstock then argued that five states will most likely determine the outcome of the next election and highlighted Pennsylvania in particular in this regard. She furthermore criticized the composition of the Republican party at the moment. Comstock thinks that it will not serve the President well in the next elections that his party is almost exclusively white, male and old, adding that women are frustrated with the President for many reasons. As a last question, the moderator asked whether the current situation in the U.S. will end up being a sign of weakness or of strength. Both former Member of Congress agreed that the country is strong enough to endure a presidential impeachment and still be recognized as a global leader, especially due to the fact that carrying out such a procedure is a sign of a functioning democratic system.


Iris Müller from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation gave the closing remarks and called for more open minded discussions and to listen carefully, also to our global allies. Mutual understanding takes effort and courage, but it is crucial.

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