Trump must be held to account, say US diplomats

By on 11/01/2021 | Updated on 11/01/2021
Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, is leading calls to remove the president from office via impeachment or the 25th amendment. Credit: Julio Obscura via Flickr

American diplomats have drafted two cables criticising Donald Trump for inciting last week’s attack on the Capitol building, and calling for the president to be held to account over the legislature’s occupation. The diplomats suggest pursuing action under the 25th amendment to the constitution, which permits a sitting president to be removed from office, AP reported yesterday.  

The highly unusual cables make clear that diplomats are concerned that Trump’s actions risk impeding their work promoting democratic principles. “Failing to publicly hold the president to account would further damage our democracy and our ability to effectively accomplish our foreign policy goals abroad,” AP reported the second of the two cables as stating.  

The first of the cables says: “Just as we routinely denounce foreign leaders who use violence and intimidation to interfere in peaceful democratic processes and override the will of their voters, the department’s public statements about this episode should also mention president Trump by name. It is critical that we communicate to the world that in our system, no one – not even the president – is above the law or immune from public criticism.” 

 “This would be a first step towards repairing the damage to our international credibility,” it adds. “It would allow the beacon of democracy to shine on despite this dark episode. It would also send a strong message to our friends and adversaries that the Department of State applies an ethos of integrity and objective standards when it condemns assaults on democracy at home or abroad.” 

The second cable calls on secretary of state Mike Pompeo to support any move by vice president Mike Pence to invoke the 25th amendment, under which a sitting president can be removed if the VP and a majority of the cabinet decide that they have become unfit for office.  

The State department’s safe space

The cables were sent via what is known as the ‘dissent channel’, through which foreign service officers and other US citizens employed by the Department of State and Agency for International Development are invited to express constructive criticism of government policy. 

Under the regulations, diplomats who put their names to dissent cables are in theory protected from retaliation. However, some diplomats fear reprisal and the cables are therefore used sparingly. AP reported that it had seen the cables, but that it was not clear how many diplomats had put their names to the documents.  

Since the system was established in 1971, the dissent cable that has attracted the most signatories regarded Trump’s 2017 executive order imposing a travel and immigration ban on citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries.  

Pressure from legislators

In other news, Pence is also coming under pressure from the House of Representatives to act. House speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that it would proceed with legislation to impeach Trump if Pence fails to invoke the 25thamendment, describing the president as a threat to democracy.  

“We will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat,” Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues. “The horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this president is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.”  It is doubtful that impeachment proceedings could be completed before the end of the Trump presidency on 20 January. However, many of his political opponents and some Republicans are arguing for impeachment, arguing that it would prevent him from running for office again in 2024.  

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