‘Nobody is above the law’: Americans take to streets in support of Trump impeachment

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Protests ranged from tiny to thousands strong on eve of the impeachment vote in effort to hold Trump accountable

Hours before Congress began to convene for Wednesday’s vote to make Donald Trump only the third US president in history to be impeached, thousands of Americans from across the country gathered to make their views plain under the banner: “Nobody is above the law”.

From snowy Portland in Maine to an even chillier Anchorage in Alaska, 4,500 miles away, protesters turned out on the eve of the impeachment vote to lend their voices to the effort to hold Trump accountable for the abuse of power and obstruction of Congress of which he is accused. Organisers of the nationwide demonstrations, drawn from a coalition of groups including Indivisible, MoveOn and Greenpeace, recorded 617 events nationwide.

The protests ranged from tiny to thousands strong. In Concord, Massachusetts, a small crowd gathered at the historically poignant spot of the Battle of Lexington and Concord that sparked the revolutionary war.

They waved placards that quoted one of the founding fathers, John Adams, who said: “Facts Are Stubborn Things”. That paean to truth was poignant too. At the very moment the Concord protesters were braving the sleet, Trump was delivering a six-page letter full of insults and ranting to Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, denouncing the impeachment process.

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Trump impeachment: protesters gather in Times Square on eve of vote – video

According to the chief fact-checker of the Washington Post, the letter contained at least “a couple dozen” factual errors or misleading statements.

In New York City, the historical theme was echoed in Times Square where a crowd of more than a thousand unfurled a giant banner bearing the words of Article II, section four of the US constitution which lays out the terms of impeachment. Shannon Stagman of Empire State Indivisible, an organizer of the New York rally, told Reuters that the event marked a crucial moment for American citizens.

“It’s important to come out and say we recognize that crimes were committed here, that this president has abused his power and we’re not OK with letting that slide,” she said.

Big cities and small towns brought local flavors to bear on the demonstrations. In Houston, Texas, they chanted: “Trump needs fixin’, just like Nixon”, while in Raleigh, North Carolina, they sang to the tune of the Christmas carol: “We wish you a good impeachment / And removal right now”.

Protesters
Protesters gathered on Boston Common near the Massachusetts state house during a rally calling for the impeachment of Trump in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

Wednesday’s vote is expected to go almost entirely along party lines, with Democrats appearing united enough to push impeachment through. Trump faces two articles – effective charges from Congress – that he abused his power by trying to force Ukraine to investigate his potential political rival Joe Biden, and that he then obstructed Congress by blocking the testimony of key witnesses before the impeachment hearings.

Should the articles be approved by the House, as expected, on Wednesday evening, they then pass to the Senate for a trial likely to be held in the New Year. The Republicans control that upper house, ensuring that Trump is all but certain to be acquitted and therefore not removed from office.

Q&A

How do you impeach the US president?

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Article 1 of the United States constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to initiate impeachment and the Senate the sole power to try impeachments of the president. A president can be impeached if they are judged to have committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” – although the US Constitution does not specify what “high crimes and misdemeanors” are.

The formal process starts with the House of Representatives passing articles of impeachment, the equivalent of congressional charges. A simple majority of members need to vote in favour of impeachment for it to pass to the next stage. Democrats currently control the House.

The chief justice of the US Supreme Court then presides over proceedings in the Senate. The president is tried, with senators acting as the jury. For the president to be found guilty two-thirds of senators must vote to convict. Republicans currently control the Senate.

Two presidents have previously been impeached, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Andrew Johnson in 1868, though neither was removed from office as a result. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before there was a formal vote to impeach him.

Martin Belam

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Given the highly partisan nature of Trump’s impeachment – especially the response of the Republican party that has shown no willingness to engage in a process laid down unambiguously in the US constitution – its political ramifications are all important. That gave Tuesday night’s nationwide protests an extra urgency.

Opinion polls show the American people sharply divided on the subject, closely mimicking the rift in Congress. The impeachment tracker on the political site fivethirtyeight.com has support for impeachment at 47.3% and opposition at 46.5%.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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