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Lessons from Trump

Dec 20,2019
Two motions to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump were passed in the House of Representatives. The charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress were approved with 230 votes and 229 votes, respectively, which comfortably surpassed a majority (216 votes) in the House. With these remarkable developments, Trump became the third U.S. president whose impeachment was endorsed by the House, following Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.

In the trial in the Senate, where the Republican Party holds the majority, Trump will most likely not be removed from office. However, if a group of key witnesses including former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton makes bombshell statements against their boss, we cannot rule out the possibility of a few Republican Senators turning their backs on Trump. The fact that Trump was impeached by the 431-member House itself is a humiliation for him.

Trump is suspected of having pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig into corruption implicating Joe Biden — Trump’s political rival and a strong contender in next years’ U.S. presidential election — in return for a military aid worth $400 million. If proven true, that is a classic case of a president attempting to seek political gains by taking advantage of a nation’s aid and diplomacy. A bigger problem is that he brushed off the Congress’s persistent demand for disclosure of information and forced government officials involved in the scandal not to cooperate with the House inquiry.

As Trump critically challenged the principle of separation of powers by denying the Congress’ privilege to oversee the executive branch, he deserves criticism. He also abused government funds, attempted to pardon his aides involved in illegal acts, and took the lead in denying freedom of the press by repeatedly describing the reports critical of him as “fake news” on Twitter.

Our government led by President Moon Jae-in — who has been enjoying limitless powers on par with Trump’s — must learn lessons from the impeachment. Our presidents have repeated the tragic history of wielding unfettered power for two to three years after taking office, transforming into “vegetative” heads of state as a result of their governance failure and corruption involving their aides, and ending up with prosecutors investigating them and their relatives. Such sad chapters of our presidencies could have been prevented if the system of checks and balances had worked. Our government must do better to protect the basic principles of democracy.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 20, Page 34