On Thursday, December 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered vocal support of US President Donald Trump. This occurred less than a week after the House of Representatives formally impeached Trump.
Two articles of impeachment have been brought against Trump: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. He is the third president in the nation’s history to be impeached. Trump and his supporters have argued the entire process has merely been a partisan political act and that it is not legitimate. This sentiment was echoed by Putin.
Putin held an annual press conference on Thursday and spoke on a range of topics for over four hours. During the conference, he was asked about the impeachment of Trump. Putin dismissed the charges as “dreamed up” and claimed that this was about the Democrats seeking revenge for having lost the 2016 elections.
In this same conference, Putin also referenced the Russian collusion investigation that was initially begun by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and ultimately completed by the Special Counsel conducted by special prosecutor Robert Mueller after 22 months. Putin said that Trump had been accused of conspiring with Russia but in the end, “there was no conspiracy at all.”
Mueller later concluded that there was insufficient proof to support the charge that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to sway the US election. Trump and his supporters used that conclusion to argue that there was no collusion and Trump has frequently labeled the investigation and his impeachment a “witch hunt.”
However, in testimony to the US House Committee on the Judiciary, Mueller stated his investigation had not exonerated Trump of crimes. He said that he was unable to charge a sitting president with a crime due to a longstanding Department of Justice policy – a policy that prevents federal prosecutors from charging the president with a crime.
Why was Trump impeached?
The impeachment of Trump came a few months after an unidentified whistleblower came forward to express concerns about a call between the president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to an edited transcript of the call released by the White House, Trump at one point said he would need Zelensky to “do us a favor.”
At that point, Trump discussed CrowdStrike, which was in reference to an alleged conspiracy theory that Ukraine had hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers during the 2016 election – not Russia, as has been established by US intelligence. Later in the call, Trump asked Zelensky to “look into” an investigation of former US Vice President Joe Biden. At the time of the call, Biden was considered the frontrunner to be the Democratic nominee to run against Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Trump has since been accused of pressuring Zelensky to find incriminating evidence against Biden.
In order to force Zelensky’s hand, Democrats believe Trump withheld much-needed financial aid from the country, which is currently in the midst of a protracted military conflict with Russia-backed forces. In emails obtained and released by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), it was found the White House had instructed the Pentagon to hold the aid just an hour and a half after Trump’s call with Zelensky.
For these reasons, Trump was charged with abuse of power. He was also charged with obstruction of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the House’s investigation.
Trump’s relationship with Russia
On December 20, Trump retweeted an Associated Press article stating Putin called the impeachment “far-fetched.” Trump wrote “A total Witch Hunt!” in the tweet. This was a day after the Washington Post reported that former senior aides to the president believed Trump’s beliefs about Ukraine were influenced by Putin.
Trump has been accused of doing numerous favors for Putin that support Russia’s interests but not necessarily those of the United States. These include pulling US military troops from Syria, which allowed Russian forces to assume greater power in the region. Trump has also reportedly, on various occasions, verbally insulted allies of the United States.
World leaders’ response to Trump’s impeachment
While Trump may have Putin’s support, he is perhaps less likely to receive similar support from other world leaders. So far, there haven’t been any public statements of support for Trump from leaders of US-allied nations.
Trump has reportedly faced public ridicule from leaders of foreign nations. At the beginning of the month, a video clip was released showing French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apparently jokingly refer to Trump.
Afterward, Johnson denied mocking Trump, but in the lead-up to the UK’s general election on December 12, the British PM appeared to be keeping his distance from Trump – who is seemingly largely unpopular in the United Kingdom.