Trump impeachment on the cards, Bannon says

Democrats are on course to win US midterms and will move to oust president, former senior aide warns

Washington: Impeachment proceedings will be launched against Donald Trump in January unless he can hold on to the House of Representatives, Steve Bannon, his former campaign chairman, has warned.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Bannon said the Democrats were on course to win a majority of House seats in the midterm elections and would soon move to kick Trump from office. He warned that impeachment hearings would bring “months of nastiness” for the Trump administration as key figures would be forced to testify under the glare of public scrutiny and the television cameras.

Bannon also hit out at those who believe the Democrats are not seeking impeachment, saying they are “kidding themselves”.

“It’s very simple, it’s an up or down vote,” Bannon said of the November midterms. “You vote up, he stays. You vote down, he goes. It’s like the old gladiators.”

The dire warning is part of a Republican strategy to make Trump supporters realise the seriousness of his predicament in an attempt to drive them to the polling stations. It comes after what has been described as Trump’s worst week in office, with the conviction of two close associates — Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer, and Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman.

The former proved especially damaging, with Cohen “flipping” by admitting to breaking campaign finance laws over two hush-money payments, saying he did so under Trump’s “direction”.

The US president has admitted that the payments, made to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels, a porn star, and Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, before the 2016 election after they claimed affairs, ultimately came from him. However, he said campaign funds were not used and denied any illegality. The fallout has renewed discussion of impeachment, the process through which the US Congress can remove a sitting president from office.

The House of Representatives and the Senate would have to vote for impeachment for it to be binding. Currently the Republicans have majorities in both bodies and Bannon warned that the Democrats were on course to win 30 to 35 seats in the midterms, enough to take back the House and start impeachment proceedings.

“They will field-strip this administration during impeachment hearings,” said Mr Bannon, a former White House chief strategist, about the prospect of a Democrat-controlled House.

Bannon predicted that the Democrats would launch impeachment proceedings as early as January next year if the investigation into Russian election meddling had concluded by then.

“That will lead you to many months of just nastiness and, more importantly, no movement on the Trump agenda. Anybody who’s telling the president that he can… work with a Democratic Congress is dangerously naive,” he said.

Trump has remained defiant after what was called his “darkest hour” in office, when on Tuesday first Cohen and then Manafort were convicted in different courts within minutes of each other. Cohen pleaded guilty to five charges of unpaid tax, two of campaign finance violations and one related to a house loan. Manafort was found guilty of tax and bank fraud and faces up to 80 years in jail. The president has not ruled out using his presidential powers to pardon Manafort, who refused to cooperate with Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He has dubbed Cohen a “flipper” for being apparently willing to admit what he knows about Trump in turn for leniency.

For Bannon, who fell out with Trump after being quoted in a damaging book about the White House, the best way to protect the president is retain hold of Congress at the midterms. He believes that by making Trump’s support base realise the threat of impeachment they will turn out: “There’s nothing better than ‘The Deplorables’ when their backs are to the wall.”

— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2018

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