A&M foreign affairs expert on whether impeachment trial hurts diplomacy options

Published: Jan. 22, 2020 at 5:33 PM CST
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While the impeachment trial rages on in the U.S. Senate, the subject, President Donald Trump, is overseas conducting foreign affairs at the World Economic Conference.

The president has commented on the trial while in Davos, Switzerland, and has previously suggested that the trial might impede his position at the bargaining table with other nations.

Larry Napper is a former U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan and to the Republic of Latvia. He is currently a professor at the Texas A&M Bush School of Government and Public Service. He joined First News at Four to discuss foreign policy and diplomacy implications of the continued impeachment trial.

“Presidents who have historically found themselves in this situation have often complained that it does impair their ability to conduct relations,” said Napper, citing former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton as well as the current president, Donald Trump. “I’m not so sure that is the case…because they retain the same constitutional authority that they had before all this came up… If the president gives a lawful order to the diplomats or to the military, it will be carried out in the same way as before this [impeachment trial] came up.”

Furthermore, Napper says that foreign leaders—or at least their advisors—understand what the average American understands as well: the Senate needs a two-thirds majority to remove President Trump from office and that is extremely unlikely to happen.

“If [foreign leaders] are looking for any seminal event that’s likely to change anything, it’s likely to be the election,” said Napper. “And they know that.”

Napper is clear, however, that he believes there are foreign policy costs stemming from the situation that led to the impeachment inquiry.

“It is extremely unfortunate that our relationship with Ukraine, a key pivotal country in restraining [Russian leader] Vladimir Putin’s aggressive behavior…has really been dragged into our domestic politics in a most unfortunate way,” Napper said. “Especially when Ukraine itself has a new president and is trying to carve out a new policy line for the country, trying to unite the country, and trying to deal with Putin.”

For the full conversation with Napper, see the video player above.

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