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20 Jan 2019 3:59
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  •   Home > News > International

    Donald Trump facing impeachment push from first Muslim congresswomen

    Newly elected Rashida Tlaib is part of growing calls for the US President's impeachment, which looks more likely now the Democrats have control of the House.

    Just hours after Rashida Tlaib became one of the first Muslim women to be sworn into the US House of Representatives, she called for US President Donald Trump to be impeached.

    In an opinion story published earlier this month, the Palestinian-American wrote there was already "overwhelming evidence that the President has committed impeachable offences".

    Newly elected Somali-American congresswoman Ilhan Omar has also been among those calling for Mr Trump's impeachment.

    The first two Muslim women in Congress will now not only be able to vote and form a simple majority in the House to impeach the President, but also work towards overturning Mr Trump's travel ban targeting Muslim countries.

    But to remove Mr Trump from office, two-thirds of the Senate also need to find Mr Trump guilty.

    While senior Democratic members remain cautious as they await results from the Robert Mueller investigation, Ms Tlaib's stance is resonating with a grassroots movement in the Party to remove Mr Trump from office.

    On the first day of the new Congress, three Democrats in the House wasted no time in reintroducing articles of impeachment against Mr Trump.

    The articles, first introduced by Brad Sherman last July, will now carry more weight as Democrats have retaken the House majority for the first time since 2011.

    In an interview with the US Today show last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was refusing to rule out indicting or impeaching Mr Trump, despite having previously said it was too early to start the discussions.

    'A very high chance of impeachment'

    Impeachment is a statement of charges made against a holder of public office for reasons of "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours" — not the removal of someone from office.

    Whether the misconduct is enough to impeach a president is up to the House.

    Both analysts and mathematicians believe this is within reach, as a simple majority of 218 votes out of 435 representatives is needed.

    Timothy Trudgian, a mathematical scientist and future fellow at the University of New South Wales, has created a statistical model of the probability of impeachment in Congress.

    Even if up to 17 Democrats swap sides … there is [still] a very high chance of impeachment proceedings being approved in the [House] committee," he said.

    Ms Tlaib said she believed Mr Trump's impeachable offences include "obstructing justice … abusing the pardon power; directing or seeking to direct law enforcement to prosecute political adversaries for improper purposes".

    She also said Mr Trump was responsible for the "unconstitutional imprisonment of children at the southern border" and "conspiring to illegally influence the 2016 election" though hush money payments.

    While a number of senior Democrats are urging their colleagues to wait until the end of the Mueller probe to discuss impeachment, Ms Tlaib argues "it is not Mueller's role to determine whether the President has committed impeachable offences".

    Mr Sherman, who filed articles of impeachment after Mr Trump's decision to fire FBI agent James Comey when he refused to stop the Russian investigation, wrote in July that he hoped to "begin a long process to protect our country from abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and impulsive, ignorant incompetence".

    However, Donald DeBats, head of American Studies at Flinders University, said the discussions have been politically motivated.

    In order to remove Mr Trump following an impeachment, he must also be tried and found guilty by the Senate, where Republicans currently hold a majority.

    "It's not likely to pass in the Senate because there were no political gains for the Republicans to remove Mr Trump," Dr DeBats said.

    "It doesn't matter who controls the lower house, what matters is who controls the upper house."

    'Chances of a guilty verdict are less than 30 per cent'

    Historically, only two presidents have been impeached, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, and neither were convicted.

    Dr Trudgian said that mathematically, it was a hard ask for the Senate to convict and remove a president because a two-thirds majority was required.

    Democrats, including the independents who support them, make up 47 senators, meaning at least 20 people would need to cross the floor.

    "If there was a one-in-three chance of any given Republican senator crossing the floor, and this is staggeringly high, then the chances of a guilty verdict are less than 30 per cent," Dr Trudgian said.

    However, if there is evidence from the Mueller probe of Mr Trump colluding with Russia, House Democrats will have a much stronger case for impeachment and may be able to win over Republicans in the Senate.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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