On the day of the articles of an impeachment vote, I was at the White House, writing the first draft of history. “On whose side are you?” I have heard, again and again, people asking one another these past few weeks. To this partisan question, as an independent thinker and author, I have one answer only: I am on the side of non-partisanship. If this at all can be possible in the situation we are in and let’s all dress in black fashion choices.
As I entered into an overpacked White House Briefing Room, fairly desensitized, I paused for a moment to talk with other members of the press corps.
“Can you believe that we are here, today, being a part of history?” a photographer from the Washington Post asked me.
So it began.
I have been a witness to a number of political dramas: protests, civil war, bombings, the assassination of the first democratic Serbian PM. I was standing in the middle of the EC1 when the financial crash hit London, I lived through all the drama of recent Spanish politics and of the UK elections. This was, even with impeachment, just another Wednesday.
Trump believes he hasn’t received a moment of grace his entire term. He’s right. Maybe the day the tax law was passed and he threw a party on the South Lawn was a day of peace, but I can’t recall any others in these past three years. I also do not remember one day that the president has not attacked the press. I have not had one breath of peaceful air covering this White House.
America is divided. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds that the nation evenly divided, 48% to 48%, on whether to remove the president from office.
Impasse. Each to their side of the arena.
On Wednesday, Dec 18, around 3 pm, Kellyanne came into the Briefing room, in a white dress, looking bright and speaking into a camera with a Kim Kardashian glow. “She worked on her media appearances,” I said to myself. This softer approach works for her.
And it did work until she lost her cool under questions. “When will Zelensky get his meeting in the White House?” Or: “Why do you say you released the transcript when in fact it says it is a memorandum?’ Or: ”Kellyanne, can you point to the word ‘corruption’ in the phone call between Trump and Zelensky”.
It only takes a question to set Kellyanne off.
Apart from that, Kellyanne was pretty successful in the WH Briefing room at getting her premeditated message, of the city of the two takes, across. There were two points, however, she was right about:
1. Impeachment is not popular with independents who resent partisanship. According to the Emerson College poll, the biggest swing is among Independents. They oppose impeachment 49% to 34%, which represents a reversal from October where they supported impeachment 48% to 39%.
2. No one is talking about the Democratic debate and DNC candidates. “ Does anybody care?” asked Kallyanne.
The timing of the impeachment has hurt the Democratic candidates, as no one is focusing on them anymore. The impeachment is dominating the news cycle. Some even think that impeachment is helping Trump get re-elected. Brad Parscale says that on the day of the impeachment vote, the Trump campaign raised 5 million dollars. #KAG has established a new way to fundraise without even having to throw a gala.
Return of Biden or Four more years of Trump?
I talked to the journalists from Ukraine to understand what is going in their country in all its complexity. What is missing in the U.S. journalistic accounts, they told me, is that Biden and a former president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, got along extremely well while they were both in power and that Poroshenko is looking to get back into power.
When I asked if there is any truth in the claim the Republicans have made about Bursima and Hunter Biden, they said they did not know.
As for Zelensky, I was told that he was under enormous pressure both from Ukraine and Russia, as when he was a comedian, he did many appearances in Russia, and to this day, he has many friends in entertainment there. The journalists also emphasized that it is unfair for American pundits to call Zelensky a traitor for taking a meeting in Paris with Putin. These American pundits “lack a true understanding of the difficulty our country, Ukraine, is in.”
After Kellyanne finished her gaggle on the historic day of the House impeachment vote, I joined a press line to look for a chance to ask Donald Trump a question during his Marine One departure. Standing in the cold amplified by the chopper’s spinning blades, I looked at all the journalists surrounding me. I glanced over the lit trees in the Rose Garden. Standing in this moment in history, it finally hit me: I do not need anyone to tell me what happened on this day, I am witnessing history in the making from the front line.
Trump stepped out of the residence in a black overcoat, and he walked with a gait aiming to project strength, making it obvious that he would not give any exclusive comments to us. He just waved and went directly in front of his supporters who had lined up to meet him. The crowd was cheering and applauding him, making it clear that there are still enough of those on his side. I’ve watched. I’ve observed.
On the side, Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller waited for Trump to get on the chopper first. They all boarded Marine One and set off to Michigan, where Trump was scheduled to hold the rally at the same time the House was to hold the impeachment vote.
House of Impeachment Vote
The all-day debate in the House came down to a vote on two articles of impeachment:
1. Abuse of power
2. Obstruction of Congress
The results turned out to show an absolute unity in the Republican Party. Democrats, on the other hand, did not manage to get everyone on board. Tulsey voted “present” and two Democrats voted against impeaching Trump.
That fact will be used by the Trump team going forward.
Meanwhile, in Michigan, at 8:05 pm, Trump took the stage to a standing ovation from the MAGA crowd, and he kept talking for 123 minutes straight
“It does not feel like we are being impeached…we did nothing wrong and have tremendous support in the Republican party,” Trump started his remarks.
Surprisingly enough, Trump did not focus on impeachment until he was informed of the voting results. Once he saw that three Democrats did not vote to impeach him, he was thrilled. Once that was clear, he ramped up attacks on the Democrats, even saying that “ Chuck Schummer used to kiss my ass.”
Trump can talk. He talked over two hours, some of it scripted and most of it in freestyle. Many said that Trump was having a meltdown, but I suspect this is the response of those raised on scripted politicians who never show strong emotion. Trump has changed this culture; he speaks from his gut, and all that matters to him is whether his base approves. They do.
Impeachment won’t go anywhere
Reality check. One, two, three. Republicans won’t move to remove Trump. There are simply not 67 votes. Democrats know that. Republicans know that. Journalists know that. The Democrats have taken this process as far as they can, but who will be inhabiting the White House come 2020, only the voters can decide.
No Republican will go against their party, nor they will vote to hand the 2020 election to the Democrats. That’s their view, and they will stick to it.
The moment articles of impeachment arrive at the Senate, Republicans will do everything they can to discredit all the work Democrats have done so far, acquit the president and throw away the case.
We have entered into a new chapter of uncertainty and deeper instability. 2020 does not look bright.