Interviewed by Sohail Choudhury
In the United States, Ziad K Abdelnour is a well-respected and known individual both in the financial sector as well as geopolitics. He is also considered a prolific analyst of American politics and has been consistently predicting President Donald Trump’s reelection in 2020.
Recently, Mr. Abdelnor has accorded an exclusive interview to Sohail Choudhury, Executive Editor, Blitz. Here are the excerpts:
Blitz: US Presidential election will be held next year. Democrats are already optimistic about getting President Donald Trump impeached. First of all, what do you think about this impeachment bid and do you still believe, as you have predicted earlier, Donald Trump will be re-elected?
Ziad Abdelnour: As someone who’s had a relative measure of success predicting political outcomes recently—I said Trump would win in 2016; I correctly called the Mueller investigation outcome a year before it concluded; I correctly called the outcome of the 2018 midterms in March of that year; over two years ago, I predicted the GOP would quash any prospective 2020 primary challenges against Trump, and sure enough, the RNC is canceling presidential primaries—I’d like to try my luck at projecting how all of this will go.
Trump will get impeached in the House. We don’t need to await the results of the inquiry to ascertain this outcome. Absent sudden and overwhelming public outcry against the impeachment option — which, based on the latest polls, is highly unlikely — House Democratic leadership will move to impeach, and they will secure the votes.
For the majority of House Democrats, not much arm twisting was needed; most supported impeaching Trump, even before the latest scandal broke. Indeed, there were calls to impeach before Trump even took office! Prior to the call with the Ukrainian president, Democrats hoped the Mueller report, once released, would provide them with a political silver bullet. It never came.
This time, however, impeachment advocates will almost certainly get what they’ve been pining for. You can tell by the way previously impeachment-cautious politicians, Pelosi most prominent among them, have come around. The House speaker has framed this as a solemn duty, suggesting she does not prefer this course but feels she must take it. Pelosi is likely overstating her reluctance—sure, she had resisted pushing impeachment prior to Ukraine, sometimes to the great consternation of her own caucus, but that was because she likely felt misbehavior on the scale of Ukraine was needed to proceed. Now she has it.
But it’s not just the speaker who has signed on. House Democrats fearful of primary challenges from the left will do everything in their power to avoid coming off as “soft on Trump,” especially now that nine out of 10 Democratic voters favor impeachment. What this means is even those with misgivings about the tactic have strong incentives to vote to impeach. Only 12 Democrats in the House continue to express skepticism about impeachment proceedings — virtually all from districts Trump carried in 2016, and nearly all of them freshmen — and the Democrats have enough votes without them.
Overwhelmingly, congressional Democrats will side with Democratic leadership—both official (Pelosi, Schumer, etc.) and unofficial (Biden, Warren, etc.). GOP lawmakers, for their part, will rally behind the president.
As the impeachment investigation gets underway, the actual facts will probably be immaterial. They will not ultimately lead to Congress removing the president. They may lead to Trump’s defeat at the polls, but they are more likely to boost his 2020 chances than harm them.
For those of us who like to ground our predictions in historical precedent, there’s not a lot of history through which to gauge the political effects of impeachment. Andrew Johnson, the first president to be impeached, narrowly escaped removal but lost his subsequent reelection bid (he didn’t even manage to win his party’s nomination). Then again, he was never elected in the first place. Instead, he took office after Lincoln was assassinated; Johnson only had the position he had because Lincoln, a Republican, ran on a unity ticket with a Democrat as vice president. Yet Democrats lost all presidential elections between 1860 and 1884 — so it’s unclear to what extent impeachment is responsible for the end of Johnson’s presidential stint. What we can say is that he likely faded away on account of most Americans favoring Lincoln, and the party of Lincoln, in the aftermath of the Civil War.
What about the cases of Richard Nixon (who wasn’t impeached, but only because he resigned first) and Bill Clinton? They don’t prove suitable parallels since both faced impeachment in their second terms, i.e., as lame duck presidents. Even if we look at their respective parties’ prospects, the fact that Gerald Ford (who was appointed, not elected) and Al Gore lost may have more to do with a public that was eager for a change after eight years of rule by one party, rather than anything to do with the impeachment per se. In the case of Clinton, there’s no indication that any impeachment residue was damaging to his own approval numbers or electorally toxic for Vice President Gore. It is just very difficult for a party to win more than two consecutive mandates.
But there are a set of facts that matter far more to most Republican legislators than whatever may come out in the impeachment investigation: President Trump has sky-high approval ratings among the Republican base.
If the Ukraine scandal were the first real push to oust Trump, some of his supporters might have treated these allegations with greater seriousness. But coming fresh off the heels of a three-year Russiagate affair, Ukraine can’t help but come across, to many Republicans, as just the latest attempt by Democrats to undo the results of the 2016 election. None of the facts surrounding the Ukraine call will be big enough to override the sense Trump’s base has that Democrats are illicitly drumming up anything they can to stop Trump from being president, and to stop him from being reelected in 2020.
Because the Republican base will reject these charges and rally behind the president, GOP lawmakers will be hesitant to vote for impeachment, regardless of the facts of the case. In many congressional districts, Trump enjoys far more support among Republican voters than the lawmakers representing those districts. As a result, voting to remove the president would be tantamount to voting themselves out of office — with an election fast-approaching. This is just what happened post-Watergate: those Republicans who supported the investigation of Nixon were largely deposited via the next time they came up for reelection. No Republican interested in keeping their seat is going to vote for impeachment.
Which brings us to the unavoidable reality that even though Democrats will have the votes to ram impeachment through the House irrespective of Republican opposition, Trump will ultimately be acquitted in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Though there are many things that feel new about our current political moment, this isn’t one of them. No sitting U.S. president has ever been removed from office by Congress. Earlier I brought up Johnson and Clinton—each was impeached in the House, but their subsequent trials in the Senate worked out in their favor and they stayed on. To bury Trump, two-thirds of the Senate, 67 out of 100, would need to vote to convict. The problem for Democrats is they only have 45 (with an additional two independents reliably voting with them). Where are they going to get the final 20 votes? It’s absurd to think the Democrats will achieve something that’s never happened before, in this hyperpolarized and hyperpartisan moment, with this big of a deficit to overcome.
So, while it’s possible impeachment secures Trump’s ouster via the polls, it is a near impossibility that it does so via the impeachment path itself.
But even that first possibility—impeachment damaging Trump electorally and ultimately causing his downfall at the polls—is suspect. There’s a good case to be made that impeachment will actually catalyze a Trump victory in 2020.
In short, Pelosi’s impeachment bid will probably fail and Trump will win reelection, especially if the economy remains solid. Whether Trump should be impeached on the merits is beside the point in this analysis—I am making a political prediction, not a moral argument. The best odds the Democrats have to win back the White House is to go toe to toe with Trump electorally and win at the polls.
With impeachment all but assured to fail in the Senate, and with its significant potential to catalyze a Republican victory at the polls, Pelosi would have better served her party by ignoring the clamoring voices and instead of burying the impeachment option.
If the Senate declines to remove Trump, and he manages to win reelection despite being impeached by the House, the Democrats will have few (if any) trump cards to check this president in his second term. No matter what violation he commits, after Russiagate and one failed impeachment attempt it is unlikely a second impeachment bid would be successful. It would look like a partisan witch hunt by people who can’t take a loss. It would be unprecedented to even attempt.
Put another way: if voters don’t stop Trump in 2020, he will become unstoppable.
Blitz: Hillary Clinton has been repeatedly saying she can defeat Donald Trump and with the impeachment bid of the Democrats it seems they already are putting more emphasis on getting the president impeached instead of winning the upcoming election in 2020. What exactly you are seeing?
Ziad Abdelnour : In 2016 Hillary Clinton famously expressed her contempt for Trump voters when she told wealthy donors at a Manhattan fundraiser “you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.”
She went on. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”
Today few publicly call Trump voters “deplorable.” But a major force only growing in size and impact
Hillary Clinton is ‘delusional’ to think she can defeat President Trump
Let’s face it: The biggest problem here isn’t Trump – it’s Hillary. She is hugely unpopular — nearly 70% of all voters think she is untrustworthy and dishonest. She represents the old way of politics, not really believing in anything other than what can get you elected. That’s why she fights against gays getting married one moment, and the next she’s officiating a gay marriage.
Young women are among her biggest detractors, which has to hurt considering it’s the sacrifices and the battles that Hillary and other women of her generation endured so that this younger generation would never have to be told by the Barbara Bushes of the world that they should just shut up and go bake some cookies. But the kids don’t like her, and not a day goes by that a millennial doesn’t tell me they aren’t voting for her.
No Democrat, and certainly no independent, is waking up on November 8th excited to run out and vote for Hillary the way they did the day Obama became president or when Bernie was on the primary ballot. The enthusiasm just isn’t there. And because this election is going to come down to just one thing — who drags the most people out of the house and gets them to the polls — Trump right now is in the catbird seat and likely to stay with or without impeachment.
Blitz: People are saying, President Trump’s decision of withdrawing of US troops from Syria has placed the Kurds into the risk of being eliminated by Turkish fascist Recep Tayyip Erdogan. What is your opinion?
Ziad Abdelnour: I fully back the President’s decision and have been saying this for years if not decades.
These are endless, stupid and senseless wars that don’t benefit the United States. The US should never have been in Middle East in the first place. Former President Bush used the war as a personal vendetta cause Saddam threatened his father. A pure cowboy attitude. Pathetic to say the least.
The U.S. went to war under a false and now disproven premise, weapons of Mass Destruction. There were NONE!” We have spent over $8 trillion “fighting and policing” in the Middle East for what?
The circus has got to stop once and for all.
Time to set the record straight for all the clueless people out there.
President Trump, pundits say, is “making a serious mistake” by moving our forces away from what is described as “Kurdish territory”; the resulting invasion by superior Turkish forces will “kill American allies” while “carving out a zone of dominance” that will serve further to “inflame and complicate” the region.
Where to begin? Perhaps with the basic fact that there is no Kurdish territory. There is Syrian territory on Turkey’s border that the Kurds are occupying — a situation that itself serves to “inflame and complicate” the region for reasons I shall come to. Ethnic Kurds do not have a state. They live in contiguous parts of Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Most are integrated into these countries, but many are separatists.
The Kurds have been our allies against ISIS, but it is not for us that they have fought. They fight ISIS for themselves, with our help. They are seeking an autonomous zone and, ultimately, statehood. The Kurds we have backed, led by the YPG (People’s Protection Units), are the Syrian branch of the PKK (the Kurdistan Worker’s Party) in Turkey. The PKK is a militant separatist organization with Marxist-Leninist roots. Although such informed observers as Michael Rubin contend that the PKK has “evolved,” it remains a formally designated foreign terrorist organization under U.S. law. While our government materially supports the PKK’s confederates, ordinary Americans have been prosecuted for materially supporting the PKK.
The PKK has a long history of conducting terrorist attacks, but their quarrel is not with us. So why has our government designated them as terrorists? Because they have been fighting an insurgent war against Turkey for over 30 years. Turkey remains our NATO ally, even though the Erdogan government is one of the more duplicitous and anti-Western actors in a region that teems with them. The Erdogan problem complicates but does not change the fact that Turkey is of great strategic significance to our security.
While it is a longer discussion, I would be open to considering the removal of both the PKK from the terrorist list and Turkey from NATO. For now, though, the blunt facts are that the PKK is a terrorist organization and Turkey is our ally. These are not mere technicalities.
Without any public debate, the Obama administration in 2014 insinuated our nation into the Kurdish–Turk conflict by arming the YPG. To be sure, our intentions were good. ISIS had besieged the city of Kobani in northern Syria; but Turkey understandably regards the YPG as a terrorist organization, complicit in the PKK insurgency.
That brings us to another non-technicality: Our intervention in Syria has never been authorized by Congress. Those of us who opposed intervention maintained that congressional authorization was necessary because there was no imminent threat to our nation. Having U.S. forces “deter further genocidal bloodshed in northern Syria” is not a mission for which Americans support committing our men and women in uniform. Such bloodlettings are the Muslim Middle East’s default condition, so the missions would never end.
It is true that “there are no easy answers in Syria.” That is no excuse for offering an answer that makes no sense: “The United States should have an exit strategy, but one that neither squanders our tactical gains against ISIS nor exposes our allies to unacceptable retribution.” Put aside that our arming of the Kurds has already exposed our allies in Turkey to unacceptable risk. What neocons pose is not an “exit strategy” but its opposite. In effect, it would keep U.S. forces in Syria interminably, permanently interposed between the Kurds and the Turks. The untidy questions of how that would be justifiable legally or politically go unaddressed.
President Trump has an exit strategy, which is to exit. He promises to cripple Turkey economically if the Kurds are harmed. If early reports of Turkey’s military assault are accurate, the president will soon be put to the test. I hope he is up to it. For a change, he should have strong support from Congress, which is threatening heavy sanctions if Turkey routs the Kurds.
Americans, however, are not of a mind to do more than that. We are grateful for what the Kurds did in our mutual interest against ISIS. We should try to help them, but no one wants to risk war with Turkey over them. The American people’s representatives never endorsed combat operations in Syria, and the president is right that the public wants out. Of course, we must prioritize the denial of safe havens from which jihadists can attack American interests. We have to stop pretending, though, that if our intentions toward this neighborhood are pure, its brutal history, enduring hostilities, and significant downside risks can be ignored.
Blitz: In your own opinion, why Americans should vote for Donald Trump?
Ziad Abdelnour: I will rather give you FIVE key reasons why people WILL vote for Donald Trump and why he WILL win by a landslide:
- He is one step away from socialism. America is not ready to embrace socialist values yet whether they love Trump or not.
- Trump knows how to make deals, deals that will make America prosperous again and his track record speaks for itself.
- He pushes for conservative laws, limited regulations and job/wealth creation- the 3 pillars of economic well-being
- He is exactly what you get. With other politicians, you can’t know what’s real
5. Under Trump the American dream is revived.