Senator McConnell supports the president; Speaker Pelosi warns it sets a dangerous precedent,
Democratic and Republican politicians have sharply criticised President Trump’s plan to use emergency powers to pay for a border wall with Mexico.
The rarely-used move would enable Mr Trump to bypass Congress, which has refused to approve the money needed.
Senior Democrats accused the president of a “gross abuse of power” and a “lawless act”. Several Republicans also voiced concern at the plan.
Building a border wall was a key campaign pledge of Mr Trump’s campaign.
Declaring a national emergency would give Mr Trump access to billions of dollars for his project.
The president agreed on Thursday to sign a spending bill that does not include finance for the wall. Disagreement over the issue led to a 35-day government shutdown early this year – the longest in US history.
The spending bill must be signed on Friday to avert another shutdown. Citing unnamed White House officials, US media outlets reported that the president would sign the emergencies act at the same time.
Can Congress stop Trump’s emergency move?
The National Emergencies Act contains a clause that allows Congress to terminate the emergency status if both houses vote for it – and the president does not veto.
With a comfortable majority in the House, Democrats could pass such a resolution to the Senate. The Republicans control the Senate, but a number of Republican senators have been vocal in their unease about the president invoking a national emergency.
The dissenting Republicans include 2012 presidential contender and new senator for Utah Mitt Romney, Florida senator Marco Rubio, and the senator from Maine Susan Collins, who said the move was of “dubious constitutionality”.
The resolution would however still require Mr Trump’s signature to pass, allowing him to veto it. A supermajority in both houses of Congress is needed to overturn a presidential veto.
What did the White House say?
“The president is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Thursday.
She said Mr Trump would “take other executive action – including a national emergency – to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border”.
The compromise legislation was approved in an 83-16 vote in the Senate on Thursday. The House of Representatives later also backed the measure, by 300 to 128.
The package includes $1.3bn (£1bn) in funding for border security, including physical barriers, but it does not allot money towards Mr Trump’s wall. Mr Trump had wanted $5.7bn for this.
Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated his support for the president’s national emergency move, saying the president was taking action with “whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his efforts to secure the border”. Trump faces anger over wall emergency plan
How have Democrats responded?
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer issued a strongly worded joint statement condemning the move.
“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” read the statement.
“He couldn’t convince Mexico, the American people or their elected representatives to pay for his ineffective and expensive wall, so now he’s trying an end-run around Congress in a desperate attempt to put taxpayers on the hook for it.”
Ms Pelosi had already suggested that Democrats would mount a legal challenge.
Getting around Congress, not through it
A month ago, in the midst of the federal government shutdown crisis, a consensus had emerged that the easiest way out for the president was to back down from his demands for congressional border wall appropriations while declaring a “national emergency” to commandeer funds from other sources.
It took a while, but the path of least resistance is the one Donald Trump is following.
He has extricated himself from a predicament of his own making, while taking action that he can cite to supporters as evidence that he’s fulfilling his “build the wall” campaign promise.
Of course, the drawbacks to this course that were apparent in January are still there.
Republicans fear this will set a precedent for presidential power that Democrats can someday use to circumvent the will of Congress.
The emergency declaration is sure to get bogged down in court challenges, which means it may not have much tangible benefit anytime soon.
And, as much as the president may like to spin this as a victory by other means, he still backed down in the face of Democratic resistance in Congress.
The shutdown fight was always about more than just the wall – it was a battle over who would set the political agenda for the next two years of the Trump presidency.
And if this resolution is any indication, if the president wants to get his way he’s largely going to have to find ways around Congress, not through it.
What is a national emergency?
The National Emergencies Act is intended for times of national crisis. Mr Trump has claimed that there is a migration crisis at the nation’s southern border – a claim strongly refuted by migration experts.
The largest number of illegal migrants settling in the US each year is those who stay in the country after their visas expire.
Declaring a national emergency would give the president access to special powers that effectively allow him to bypass the usual political process, and he would be able to divert money from existing military or disaster relief budgets to pay for the wall.
Emergency declarations by previous presidents have been overwhelmingly used for addressing foreign policy crises – including blocking terrorism-linked entities from accessing funds or prohibiting investment in nations associated with human rights abuses.
“It’s extremely rare for a president to declare a national emergency in a bid to fund domestic construction projects, particularly one that Congress has explicitly refused to fund,” Andrew Boyle, an attorney in the national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told the Associated Press news agency.
Mr Trump’s decision to apply the powers to overcome a partisan impasse over border security has struck politicians on both sides of the aisle as a deviation from the intended use of the act.
“It would be a pretty dramatic expansion of how this was used in the past,” said the Republican senator Ron Johnson.
Maduro: US ‘warmongering’ in order to take over Venezuela
Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolás Maduro has called Donald Trump’s government a “gang of extremists” and blamed the US for his country’s crisis.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Maduro said he would not allow humanitarian aid into Venezuela as it was a way for the US to justify an intervention.
“They are warmongering in order to take over Venezuela,” he said.
The US and most Western governments have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president.
Mr Maduro is under growing internal and international pressure to call early presidential elections amid a worsening economic crisis and accusations of widespread corruption and human rights violations.
Meanwhile, Mr Guaidó has called for new anti-government protests later on Tuesday.
Maduro on Trump: ‘Extremist group’
Relations between the US and Venezuela were already fraught before President Trump’s administration became one of the first to back Mr Guaidó as interim leader.
Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations in response while Mr Trump said the use of military force remained “an option”.
In a rare interview, Mr Maduro said he hoped “this extremist group in the White House is defeated by powerful world-wide public opinion”.
Speaking in the capital, Caracas, he told the BBC’s Orla Guerin: “It’s a political war, of the United States empire, of the interests of the extreme right that today is governing, of the Ku Klux Klan, that rules the White House, to take over Venezuela.”
The US, which accuses Mr Maduro’s government of human rights violations and corruption, has led the international pressure on the Venezuelan president to step down.
It has imposed a raft of economic measures on the country, including against the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, aiming to hit Venezuela’s main source of revenue.
In recent years the US has frozen Mr Maduro’s US assets, restricted Venezuela’s access to US markets and blocked dealings with those involved in the country’s gold trade.
It has also criticised Mr Maduro’s increased use of the courts and security forces to suppress political opposition.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the government a “disastrous dictatorship” while National Security Advisor John Bolton said Mr Maduro was holding an “illegitimate claim to power”.
When asked, in response to his Ku Klux Klan comment, if he believed Mr Trump was a “white supremacist”, Mr Maduro said: “He is, publicly and openly… They hate us, they belittle us, because they only believe in their own interests, and in the interests of the United States.”
Maduro on humanitarian aid: ‘A charade’
The president has rejected allowing foreign humanitarian aid into the country, a move that is being organised by the opposition. He said Venezuela had “the capacity to satisfy all the needs of its people” and did not have to “beg from anyone”.
But for years Venezuelans have faced severe shortages of basic items such as medicine and food. Last year, the inflation rate saw prices doubling every 19 days on average.
Three million people, or 10% of the population, have left the country since the economy started to worsen in 2014, according to the UN. And Mr Guaidó says more than 300,000 Venezuelans are at “risk of dying”.
Mr Maduro, who has blamed US sanctions for Venezuela’s economic woes, said the US intended to “create a humanitarian crisis in order to justify a military intervention”.
“This is part of that charade. That’s why, with all dignity, we tell them we don’t want their crumbs, their toxic food, their left-overs.”
Maduro on calling elections: ‘What’s the point?’
Mr Maduro, in power since 2013, was re-elected to a second term last year but the elections were controversial with many opposition candidates barred from running or jailed, and claims of vote-rigging.
Head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Mr Guaidó declared himself president on 23 January, saying the constitution allowed him to assume power temporarily when the president was deemed illegitimate.
Mr Maduro – who still has the support of Turkey, Russia and China and, crucially, of the Venezuelan army – said he did not see the need for early presidential elections.
“What’s the logic, reasoning, to repeat an election?” he asked.
He also said only “about 10” governments supported Mr Guaidó – in fact, more than 30 have announced their support for the opposition leader
and that they were trying to “impose a government that nobody has elected”.
“The extremists of the White House have taken it upon themselves to carry out a coup in Venezuela.”
Food and medicine organised by the US federal government’s USAID agency arrived on Thursday and have been stored at a warehouse on the Colombian side of the border.
The agency has been bound up in international politics before Russia expelled it in 2012 citing “attempts to influence political processes through grants); and Bolivia expelled it the year after accusing it of seeking to “conspire against” the Bolivian people and government.
Both Russia and Bolivia are allies of President Maduro in the current crisis.
How far will Guaidó go?
Mr Guaidó has warned many Venezuelans are in danger of dying without international aid.
Speaking to AFP news agency, he said the groups he was putting together would “make a first entry attempt” at the blocked bridge when they had gathered enough supplies. He said he expected this to happen next week.
It would be “almost wretched at this point of huge necessity” for the military to block any convoy entering, he said.
A number of Venezuelan leaders have also appealed to the military to allow aid lorries to cross into the country.
Asked whether he would authorise the intervention of foreign military forces, Mr Guaidó said: “We will do everything possible.
The paradox of the Bill Clinton impeachment saga was that it made it easier for Donald Trump to become president and harder for his wife, Hillary. Twenty years after his acquittal, it’s clearer to see how that seismic event shaped American politics and culture today.
In a quarter century of covering US politics, I only have ever got round to framing two newspaper front pages. The first was when President Bill Clinton was impeached in December 1998. The second was when he was acquitted at the conclusion of his Senate trial the following February.
Washington in the late-1990s was my first foreign posting. The Monica Lewinsky scandal, as we inaccurately labelled it, was my first big American story. The picture framing was partly a vanity project to mark this personal milestone. But this also felt like a once-in-a-lifetime story.
Clinton was the first US president to be impeached since 1868, when Andrew Johnson also managed to avoid conviction in the Senate after being indicted by the House. Evidently, more seasoned Washington colleagues shared this view. As I came to discover over the following months, the same framed black and white newsprint, with the same banner headlines “Clinton Impeached” followed by “Clinton Acquitted”, also adorned their study and toilet walls.
Veterans of the impeachment saga soon found themselves reporting on an epic tumble of events. The 2000 presidential election, with its disputed Florida recount. The attacks of September 11th. The Iraq war and its troubled aftermath. The financial crash, and the Great Recession that followed. The election of America’s first black president, who handed over power to the country’s first reality TV star president. Once-in-a-lifetime stories seemed to come along every few years.
Two decades on, the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton nonetheless feels like a big bang moment in the American story.
Post-truth politics. The poisoning of the Washington hothouse. The delegitimisation of modern-day presidents. The corrosive impact of the internet. The rise of polarised news. The Jerry Springerisation of national life.
All were evident in that Clinton melodrama, which saw the Washington Post and New York Times ploughing the same furrows as the National Enquirer, and genre-busting news stories in which quotes from constitutional law experts interpreting what the Founding Fathers meant by high crimes and misdemeanours were interspersed with the most salacious and suggestive snippets of the sex scandal – the snap of Monica Lewinsky’s thong, the soiled blue dress, the gift from the president to his intern of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, the same anthology of poetry he had once given to Hillary Clinton.
As well as being a constitutional showdown, this was a tabloid scandal for what Vanity Fair had aptly labelled the tabloid decade.
It provided a fitting coda to an era of sensationalism that had already brought us the OJ Simpson trial, Tonya Harding, the William Kennedy Smith trial, Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s sex tapes, the arrest of Pee-Wee Herman, the first accusations against Michael Jackson, the Mike Tyson rape conviction, John Wayne Bobbitt and his penis-severing wife Lorena, and the divorce of Donald and Ivana Trump.
Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky brought this luridness to the nation’s capital, where scandal has always been the highest – and often the basest – form of entertainment.
Washington was at fever pitch. So much so that whenever I am asked today whether Donald Trump will survive until the end of his term in office, I find myself recalling the early days of the Bill Clinton scandal when it was by no means certain the president would last until the end of the week.
Events moved at such a hurtling pace, and information came at you with such dizzying speed, it was hard back then to step back and take in the panoramic picture. Hindsight offers some clarity.
The culture wars unleashed
Even before Bill Clinton had laid eyes on the 22-year-old White House intern, his Republican opponents questioned his legitimacy as president and looked for ways to drive him from office.
Not since Woodrow Wilson in 1912 had a candidate reached the White House with such a small share of the national vote, a measly 43%. Republicans also felt aggrieved that the eccentric third party candidacy of Ross Perot had stolen the election from President George Herbert Walker Bush, even though polling data suggests the Texan billionaire syphoned off just as many votes from the Democrats as the GOP.
For conservative cultural warriors, the Clintons personified the worst excesses of the Sixties. In Bill Clinton, they saw a philandering draft dodger. In Hillary Rodham Clinton, they saw a sneering feminist who looked down upon women who had not pursued careers of their own.
Political fear also stoked their antipathy. Before 1992, the Republicans had held the presidency for 20 of the previous 24 years. William Jefferson Clinton threatened to end that hegemony.
Here, after all, was an articulate young politician from the south, the region that had produced the last two Democratic presidents, who promised to fuse Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal with Ronald Reagan’s free market ideology.
Clinton sought to shatter the Nixon and Reagan coalitions that had enabled the Republicans to dominate presidential elections and was well placed to forge a new winning Democratic coalition, incorporating white working class voters who had become “Reagan Democrats”. Their fears were well placed. Since 1992, Democrats have won the popular vote in five out of six presidential elections.
So after the Whitewater investigation, the Troopergate affair and Travelgate scandal failed to produce evidence of potentially impeachable offences, Clinton’s enemies, abetted by the independent counsel Kenneth Starr, seized upon the affair with Monica Lewinsky as their gotcha moment.
Clinton’s recklessness, and his mendacious efforts to cover it up, handed his opponents a pretext to demonstrate his unworthiness to occupy the White House. Not even Richard Nixon, whose crimes and abuses of power were far more egregious, had been stalked so aggressively.
The pursuit of Bill Clinton marked a paradigm shift in presidential politics. Since then, it has become routine for every occupant of the White House to be assailed as illegitimate by zealous adversaries.
George W. Bush for the assist he received from the conservative-leaning US Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 in his favour to end the Florida recount. Barack Obama, for the untruthful claim he was born in Kenya, which, if factual, would have disqualified him from the presidency. Donald Trump for losing the popular vote by more than three million votes.
US politics has reached such a nadir that many Americans no longer accept the outcome of presidential elections, and thus deny the winners any electoral mandate. Not since the election of George Herbert Walker Bush thirty years ago has a president entered the Oval Office without his right of occupancy being brought into question.
A corollary of the delegitimisation of modern-day presidents has been the legitimisation of the politics of no, an oppositional approach whereby constitutional checks and balances have come to be used as vetoes and blockades.
This again can be traced back to the Clinton years. Bob Dole, the Republican’s leader in the Senate, deployed the filibuster more frequently than his predecessors to stymie Bill Clinton’s legislative agenda. Newt Gingrich, the first Republican House speaker since the early-1950s, used government shutdowns as a political weapon.
Bill Clinton might never have spent time alone with Monica Lewinsky had it not been for the 1995 government shutdown, which meant this inexperienced intern was granted more West Wing access because of the absence of furloughed staff.
The Clinton scandal heightened political tensions by unleashing a cultural war in the heart of Washington. Here was another opportunity to litigate the Sixties, one that pitted the modern-day puritans of the right against the permissive peaceniks of the left.
For the religious right especially, whose grip on the Republican Party tightened under Ronald Reagan, here was the chance to mount a moral crusade and increase its hold on the GOP. More moderate Republicans, the sort of business-oriented pragmatists who had once dominated the party, were already becoming an endangered breed.
Certainly, the partisan mood in Washington in the late-Nineties was wholly different from the early-Seventies, when Congress started impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, albeit for more serious felonies.
Back then some of Nixon’s most dogged tormentors came from within his own party. It was Howard Baker, a Republican Senator from Tennessee, who posed that legendary Watergate question: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”
It was Republican elders, such as the party’s former presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, who journeyed from Capitol Hill to the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House to urge Nixon to resign. When the House decided to start an impeachment inquiry against the president, the vote in February 1974 received near unanimous bipartisan vote, with 410 in favour and just four against.
‘The lie saved me’
Post-truth politics also received a boost from the Clinton scandal. His early lies, including his finger-jabbing falsehood “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” worked to his advantage.
In the explosive first days of the scandal, when senior White House correspondents such as ABC’s legendary Sam Donaldson predicted he might be forced to resign “perhaps this week”, the lies bought Clinton time. They helped him weather the initial squall, shore up Democratic support and push back against his accusers.
“The lie saved me”, the president confided to a close friend, according to the journalist John Harris’s book The Survivor, the finest book on the Clinton presidency.
The Clintons also sought to alter the question at the heart of the national debate from “Who do you believe?” to “Whose side are you on?” Was that not the rationale behind Hillary Clinton’s famed interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show, in which she accused investigators of being part of a “vast right-wing conspiracy”?
From early on, the White House framed this as a partisan battle rather than a moment of personal reckoning. “We just have to win,” Clinton told his political strategist Dick Morris, who cynically had conducted secret polling to test whether Clinton should lie or tell the truth.
As the journalist Susan Glasser told a Politico roundtable marking the 20th anniversary of the scandal: “It was political genius how he handled it by lying. Lying was proven to work in some way that has enabled further the cynical and divisive political culture of Washington.”
Not until the summer of 1998, when we learnt Monica Lewinsky had preserved the famed blue dress, did he grudgingly concede the truth.
After his lies were exposed, Clinton requested airtime from the networks for a televised confessional. “Indeed I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate”, he admitted. But then he carpet-bombed his accusers for mounting a “politically-inspired” investigation led by Kenneth Starr: “This has gone on too long, cost too much, and hurt too many innocent people.”
This time, the strategy backfired, with senior Democrats such as Senator Dianne Feinstein expressing dismay. Senator Joe Lieberman, an orthodox Jew who had long seen himself as a moral elder, condemned him on the floor of the Senate. Many were appalled by Clinton’s behaviour.
In the House, 31 Democrats voted to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. Yet no senior Democrat publicly called for the president to resign, partly because they did not want to hand victory to the Republicans. Even Lieberman, Clinton’s most prominent Democratic critic, said impeachment would be “unjust and unwise”.
So strong was party loyalty that in the immediate aftermath of being impeached by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Bill Clinton even held a pep rally on the South Lawn of the White House, with Democratic lawmakers ranked behind him. That partisan tableau featured on the front page of the Washington Post hanging on my wall.
Hillary, the long-term loser
Partly because Clinton was so adept at portraying his Republican opponents as over-reaching zealots, and partly because they did not regard his sins as impeachable, Democratic voters also remained loyal. After his acquittal in 1999, his approval rating amongst Democrats hit 92 per cent. When he left office, he enjoyed the highest approval among all voters of any departing president.
Clinton had outsmarted his opponents, and the only politicians to lose their jobs during the impeachment crisis were Republicans.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich was the first casualty. Clinton’s Baby Boomer nemesis resigned after the GOP lost seats in the 1998 congressional mid-terms, which Gingrich had turned into a national referendum on the president’s behaviour.
His successor Bob Livingstone also had to fall on his sword. On the very morning of Clinton’s impeachment, the Louisianan was forced to resign after Larry Flynt’s Hustler magazine exposed his own extramarital affair. (A ghastly irony is that the Speakership passed to Dennis Hastert, a former teacher and wrestling coach, who was then seen as an irreproachable figure. In 2016, Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison following a hush money case that revealed he had been accused of abusing young boys during his years as a teacher).
Though Clinton suffered the ignominy of becoming only the second president to be impeached, by far the biggest Democratic casualty was his wife, Hillary, because of its collateral impact on her presidential run in 2016.
When the email imbroglio broke, voters questioned whether they wanted to live through another scandal-prone presidency, fuelling Clinton fatigue. The lies from that era embroidered the narrative the Clintons were evasive and untrustworthy.
Hillary Clinton’s attacks on Donald Trump’s misogyny, and her ability to capitalise on the notorious Access Hollywood tape, were also compromised by her husband’s affairs.
She was accused of enabling his behaviour and of showing little sympathy towards his female accusers. Tellingly, one of Donald Trump’s first lines of defence was to claim he had heard Bill Clinton say worse things about women on the golf course, an accusation which, even if not true, seemed plausible.
The billionaire even paraded some of Clinton’s accusers, including Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick ahead of the first presidential debate, a stunt that many commentators considered exploitative but for others raised entirely legitimate questions about her husband’s sexual history.
Hillary Clinton, in her 2017 campaign memoir What Happened?, slammed Donald Trump’s pre-debate press conference. “He was just using them,” she wrote. But those women were accusing her husband of far worse. Juanita Broaddrick claimed Clinton had raped her in 1978, an allegation he has long denied. Trump ended up winning a higher share of white female voters than Hillary Clinton, a key factor in her defeat.
In performing this act of political jujitsu, the billionaire adopted the Clinton playbook. Like Bill Clinton, he turned his grudging televised confessional after the Access Hollywood tape emerged into a partisan rallying cry: “Whose side are you on?” As with Clinton, it won him time, mobilised his base and preserved his political viability.
Here, Trump also benefited from another part of Bill Clinton’s legacy: the redefinition of what behaviour was disqualifying for presidential candidates.
In 1988, the Democratic frontrunner Gary Hart was forced from the race after the Miami Herald published details about his affair with Donna Rice. Four years later Clinton survived the Gennifer Flowers scandal, and also allegations of draft dodging – two accusations, among scores of others, that Donald Trump survived. Clinton normalised errant behaviour and helped desensitise the electorate to philandering politicians.
The paradox of the Clinton impeachment saga, then, was that it made it easier for Donald Trump to become president and harder for his wife. Hillary Clinton became a repeat victim of his infidelities.
The first internet moment
Though those framed front pages, now slightly yellowed with age, captured the historical moment, they hardly depicted the media zeitgeist.
For the Clinton scandal completely changed the metabolism of news, speeding the shift from print to digital, and fuelling the growth of talk radio and cable news channels. Public reality, which traditionally had been shaped by the major TV networks and prominent newspapers, now was also being moulded by new media start-ups. The internet started to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of information.
This was the all-caps headline in the fledgling Drudge Report on January 17th, 1998, an obscure website relatively few people had heard of in what the BBC called at the time “the wilds of cyberspace.”
Matt Drudge, its iconoclastic founder, became the first journalist to publish the name Monica Lewinsky, after catching wind that Newsweek, which had explosive details of her affair with the president, had hesitated before publishing.
Hurrying to play catch up, respected White House reporters, such as Peter Baker who was then with the Washington Post, raced to put out the first online stories, even though many of their newsroom colleagues did not at the time have permission to access the internet. Newsweek posted a piece by its investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, the author of the suppressed scope, on its America Online site, rather than wait for its next magazine issue to hit the newsstands.
When the Starr Report was published on the fateful date of September 11th 1998, it became America’s first internet moment.
Downloads of its lurid details that day accounted for a quarter of all America’s internet traffic. With CNN getting 300,000 clicks a minute, which in those days seemed unimaginable, it became a ‘clickbait’ sensation. Not only was the digital version easier to obtain than printed copies, but the 445-page report doubled as porn. It mentioned oral sex 85 times.
The story was endlessly riveting. So perhaps we should look upon the Clinton saga as the gateway drug to our modern-day real-time information addiction, and the outbreak of the screen-time epidemic for news junkies especially. It was just that the delivery systems back then were not particularly efficient – dial-up internet, PCs and bulky laptops – and the most powerful stimulants, Twitter and Facebook, were not yet on the market.
Just as the early online news sites experienced a surge in traffic, cable news channels enjoyed a ratings bonanza.
Before the Clinton scandal, Fox News, which launched two years earlier, was something of a niche broadcaster available in just 10 million homes. By 2000, partly because of its blanket coverage of the impeachment saga, that figure had mushroomed to 56 million homes. MSNBC, which also launched in 1996, also became a significant player, not least as a progressive counterpoint to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News.
To sustain their 24/7 blanket coverage of the scandal, continuous news channels smudged the lines between reporting on events and commenting on them. Partisan pundits trading in shrill sound-bites helped fill airtime, and quickly realised the more outspoken their comments, the more they would be invited back. The disagreement culture of modern-day cable news, which tended to generate more heat than light, was born.
Talk radio relied on a more one-sided formula: polemical monologues delivered by presenters whose views were usually affirmed and amplified by listeners calling in.
The repeal during the Reagan years of the Fairness Doctrine, a regulation enforced by the Federal Communications Commission demanding the airing of both sides of an argument, had already fuelled the rise of right-wing talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh. The impeachment drama elevated their status as tribunes of the right, and underscored how local radio stations especially came to be a conservative echo chamber.
This had a circular effect on politics, and heightened the doctrinaire streak among Republicans especially. Polls suggested the push for impeachment was damaging the GOP. The 1998 mid-term elections offered incontrovertible proof of this self-sabotage. Yet despite various exit ramps being available to Republican leaders, they kept on pressing on down the road even though it was unlikely to end in Clinton’s dethronement.
Impeachment was not just a transformational moment. For contemporary politicians it has become a teachable one.
What the Senate trial of Bill Clinton underscored was the difficulty in removing a sitting president. Procedurally speaking, impeachment itself is relatively straightforward – a simple majority of the House of Representatives is required to approve an article of impeachment, which serves in effect as an indictment.
Achieving a guilty verdict in the upper chamber, by contrast, is challenging. Deliberately, the framers of the Constitution set the bar high, requiring two-thirds of the Senate to vote for removal. Today, that would require 67 Senators, a fiendishly difficult number to attain.
Back in 1998, not even all 55 Republican Senators delivered guilty verdicts at the end of the trial presided over the then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist. Nor did a single Democrat break ranks. In the present Senate, 22 Republican Senators would have to turn on Donald Trump to remove him from office, assuming all the Democrats voted guilty.
Aside from giving us a tutorial in constitutional mechanics, the impeachment saga offered a political lesson: that the pursuit of a president, through this seldom-used process, comes with enormous risks. Certainly it boomeranged for Newt Gingrich.
That’s why the new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is doing her damnedest to tamp down talk of impeachment now that the Democrats once again command a majority in the lower chamber. Understandably, she fears a voter backlash, and also handing Donald Trump the kind of martyrdom that would help him win a second term.
So here is the double paradox of the Bill Clinton scandal and the impeachment proceedings it set in motion. Not only did it end up easing Donald Trump’s path to the White House, it diminishes the chances of Congress trying to remove him from office.
Since the war, in which millions of civilians and combatants died, reunified Vietnam has rebuilt relations with America while remaining a communist state.
North Korea isolated itself from the outside world after the Korean War ended in 1953, and only began to mend ties with US-backed South Korea in recent years.
South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said this week that Vietnam was the best choice of host for the next summit because it and America used to “point a gun and knife at each other”, Reuters news agency reports.
Vietnam is also seen as a model of economic and political reform for the North to follow.
The post-war trajectory of relations between America and Vietnam was, the official added, a hopeful model for potential warmer relations between the US and North Korea.
What preparations are being made?
US envoy Stephen Biegun spent three days in discussions on the Korean peninsula.
In the Northern capital Pyongyang, he met his counterpart Kim Hyok-chol and discussed the “Singapore summit commitments of complete denuclearisation”, a US state department statement says.
The two envoys will meet again before the summit. Mr Biegun warned of “some hard work to do with the DPRK [North Korea] between now and then”.
In South Korea, the US envoy briefed Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.
“I am confident that if both sides stay committed, we can make real progress,” he told reporters.
President Trump tweeted that North Korea could become an economic “rocket”.
Is optimism premature?
Experts caution that despite Mr Trump’s assertion that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat, the country has never said it would give up its nuclear weapons programme without similar concessions from the US.
The US wants North Korea to make a full declaration of all its nuclear weapons facilities and commit to destroying them, under international supervision.
In a speech at Stanford University last week Mr Biegun said the US would not agree to lift sanctions until this happens but he indicated it could provide assistance in other ways, saying: “We did not say we will not do anything until you do everything.”
He also said Kim Jong-un had previously committed to “the dismantlement and destruction” of all North Korea’s plutonium and uranium facilities, which provide the material for nuclear weapons.
The UN has warned that North Korea is continuing its nuclear programme and breaking sanctions.
A confidential report to the Security Council earlier this week said actions including the illegal transfer of banned goods at sea could make sanctions – the international community’s main way of putting pressure on North Korea – “ineffective”.
The report said there had been a “massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal”, where material is moved from non-North Korean ships out at sea to evade monitoring.
The international sanctions against North Korea are designed to severely limit its import and export abilities, with the aim of putting pressure on the country to give up its nuclear ambitions.
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Mr Trump’s body mass index (BMI) indicates he is overweight but not obese.
The president’s health has attracted attention before. During his campaign he produced a letter that said he would be the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency”. But the doctor named as its author later said, Mr Trump had written the letter himself.
And last year, Dr Ronny Jackson said the president had “incredible genes” and it was not a matter of concern that he only slept for four or five hours a night because this was “just his nature”.
2 October 2018 Jamal Khashoggi enters the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. His fiancée Hatice Cengiz waits outside, but Khashoggi doesn’t emerge.
4 October 2018 In its first statement, Saudi Arabia says Khashoggi disappeared after leaving the consulate, and that it is trying to establish what happened to him.
6 October 2018 Khashoggi’s employers, the Washington Post, report that Turkish intelligence believe he was killed inside the consulate by a 15-man team sent from Saudi Arabia.
10 October 2018 CCTV footage showing the alleged hit squad arriving in Turkey is aired by Turkish media.
13 October 2018 Saudi Arabia attacks “lies and baseless allegations” and repeats it did not kill Khashoggi. The BBC learns Turkey has an audio recording indicating he was killed in the consulate.
15 October 2018 Donald Trump speaks to Saudi King Salman, who denies his country killed Khashoggi. Trump suggests “rogue killers” may be responsible.
20 October 2018 For the first time, Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi is dead, claiming he died in a fight. This is met with wide scepticism. Two senior Saudi officials are fired.
22 October 2018 Saudi Arabia gives a new account, denying reports that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing, saying Khashoggi was murdered in a “rogue operation”. Footage emerges of a body double leaving the Saudi consulate dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes.
16 November 2018 The Washington Post reports the CIA has concluded Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing. Trump later contradicts this, saying the CIA did not conclude the crown prince was responsible.
22 November 2018 France, like Germany and the UK, bans all the Saudi suspects from its territory. Germany also stops arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has written to Senate leaders describing actions taken against individuals.
However, the documents do not indicate who was responsible for Khashoggi’s death, as demanded by the senators.
The US has imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi officials, including Saud al-Qahtani, a former adviser to the crown prince who, it alleged, was “part of the planning and execution of the operation” that led to Khashoggi’s murder.
But Mr Trump has faced criticism from senators for failing to condemn the crown prince directly.
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EU ambassadors have agreed to toughen regulations on a controversial gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, but they have decided not to back plans that might threaten its completion.
Work on the 1,225km (760-mile) Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea is already well under way and is set to be finished by the end of 2019.
The EU wants to bring pipelines coming into the bloc under its energy rules.
Germany feared that would make the pipeline uneconomic and unviable.
In the end 27 of the bloc’s 28 ambassadors reportedly agreed with a Franco-German compromise, which meant that Germany could remain as lead negotiator on the Nord Stream 2 project.
What are the worries with Nord Stream 2?
Russia currently supplies around 40% of the EU’s gas supplies, just ahead of Norway, which is not in the EU but takes part in the bloc’s single market.
For years, the 28-member bloc has been concerned about reliance on Russian gas.
Poland has warned that Russia could use Nord Stream 2 to harm Europe’s energy security, and US President Donald Trump even accused Germany of being a “captive” of Russia because of it.
Nord Stream 2 will only increase Russia’s supply, it also means that, along with its TurkStream project, Russia will be able to bypass Ukrainian pipelines. The loss of transit fees would hit Ukraine’s economy hard.
A big priority for the EU is to increase competition too, and instead of a patchwork of different agreements for pipelines entering the bloc it wants Nord Stream 2 to come under internal EU rules on transparency and separating ownership of the pipes from the supplier.
German businesses have invested heavily in Nord Stream 2 and former Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder is running the project.
As well as Germany’s Uniper and BASF’s Wintershall unit, other European companies have stakes too, including Anglo-Dutch Shell, OMV of Austria and Engie of France.
Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to assure Central and Eastern European states on Thursday that the pipeline would not make Germany reliant on Russia for energy.
“Germany will expand its network of gas terminals in regards to liquified gas. Meaning, for gas we do not want to be at all dependent on Russia alone,” she said.
Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow hoped the disagreement would be sorted out. “We still believe that this project is beneficial to both the European gas consumers’ interests and to Russian Federation as gas supplier,” he said.
Media captionWhat happened at Trump’s State of the Union address?
US President Donald Trump has announced in his State of the Union speech that he will hold a second nuclear summit with North Korea’s leader this month.
In an address to the nation with the theme “Choosing Greatness”, he vowed once again to build a border wall.
While appealing for political unity, the Republican president also said “ridiculous partisan investigations” could damage US prosperity.
In a rebuttal, Democrats accused Mr Trump of abandoning US values.
His primetime address came less than a fortnight after he backed down to end the longest ever US government shutdown when Democrats refused to fund a US-Mexico border wall.
Federal agencies could close again if no spending plan is agreed by the end of next week.
What did he say about North Korea?
The president said in his 82-minute speech on Tuesday night that he would meet Kim Jong-un in Vietnam from 27-28 February.
“Much work remains to be done,” Mr Trump said, “but my relationship with Kim Jong-un is a good one.”
Plans for a second summit have been in the works since the two leaders’ historic talks last year.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim’s meeting last June in Singapore was the first ever between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.
While Pyongyang has not conducted any atomic or ballistic missile tests since last summer, it has yet to agree to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme.
The US envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, is in Pyongyang for talks, paving the way for the second leadership summit.
What might a second summit achieve?
Analysis by Laura Bicker, BBC News, Seoul
Mr Trump’s goal will be to extract pledges from Kim Jong-un without giving too much ground. The Trump administration has said it is not willing to lift sanctions, but it has mentioned helping out the North’s economy.
However, handing over such aid to a secretive state which has yet to declare a list of its weapons facilities or allow in independent inspectors is bound to raise more than eyebrows.
So Mr Trump has to extract a written pledge from Mr Kim. Otherwise these summits will be seen as all show, and very little substance.
As for Mr Kim’s bargaining chips, we have been told he could be prepared to give up his nuclear production site known as Yongbyon.
I’ve also been told by some sources close to Pyongyang that Mr Kim does want to achieve something his father and grandfather never did. A peace treaty.
The prospect of becoming the US president who ended the 68-year long Korean War is bound to be a tantalising one for Mr Trump.
What did he say about unity?
After two years of rancorous partisanship, Mr Trump on Tuesday night repeated calls for political unity that he has made in his last two annual speeches to Congress.
“Together, we can break decades of political stalemate,” he said. “We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions.”
Mr Trump raised potential areas of agreement, such as infrastructure improvements, lowering prescription drug costs and fighting childhood cancer.
But he added: “An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.”
Democrats have launched a flurry of inquiries into the Trump administration since they took over the US House of Representatives last month.
A special prosecutor is still investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, which the president and Moscow deny.
As Mr Trump delivered his nationally televised speech, his chief congressional antagonist was sitting at the rostrum over his shoulder.
The Democratic leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tweeted afterwards: “It will take days to fact-check all the misrepresentations that the president made tonight.”
A message to his base
It was a speech that was billed as bipartisan, but beneath the flowery language were the same sharp divides and disagreements.
Mr Trump has never really acknowledged his party’s ballot-box defeat in the mid-term elections last November.
By instigating the recently concluded government shutdown, he acted like he still had the political upper hand – even when it was clear to almost everyone that this was not the case.
So this State of the Union address presented a quandary. How can a president reconcile himself to divided government while still asserting that everything is going great for him?
For this president, the answer was to effectively shrug at the setbacks. To focus his message, where it counted, towards his political base.
And to stick with the message that won him the presidency in 2016 and, he appears to believe, will keep him in the White House for another term next year.
How did Democrats respond?
Stacey Abrams, who lost her race last year to be governor of Georgia, delivered the Democrats’ response to Mr Trump.
She was the first African-American woman to give the party’s rebuttal.
Ms Abrams said: “The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people – but our values.”
She also said that while she is “disappointed” with Mr Trump, “I still don’t want him to fail.”
Democratic female lawmakers who attended Mr Trump’s speech wore white to celebrate the 100th anniversary of American women gaining the right to vote.
They sat stony-faced as their Republican counterparts rose for the applause lines.
But Democrats surprised Mr Trump with a standing ovation when he said there were more women in the workforce and in Congress than ever before.
“That’s great!” said the president, delighted by their reaction. “Really great.”
What did he say about foreign wars?
Mr Trump said his administration was holding “constructive talks” with the Taliban to find a solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
“The hour has come to at least try for peace,” he added.
The president also said “virtually all” of the territory once occupied in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State group had been liberated from “these bloodthirsty monsters”.
“It is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home,” he told the chamber.
He said 7,000 US troops had died and more than $7tn (£5.4tn) had been spent by America on nearly two decades of war in the Middle East.
“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” said the president, who campaigned on an ‘America First’ platform.
What did Trump say on border security?
The president devoted much of his speech to border security, vowing once again to build a US-Mexico barrier and calling illegal immigration “an urgent national crisis”.
But he refrained from declaring a national emergency that might allow him to bypass Congress for wall funding.
With another government shutdown deadline impending on 15 February, the president has few options to deliver his signature campaign promise.
Mr Trump told his audience that working-class Americans pay the price for illegal immigration.
The mood in the chamber
At the scene – By Tara McKelvey, BBC News
Despite the president’s call for unity, the reception from Democrats was frosty for most of the evening.
Meanwhile, Republicans shouted their approval – especially when Mr Trump talked about the wall along the southern border.
When the president said: “The state of our union is strong”, members of his party stood and chanted: “USA!”
The Democrats stayed seated. But then the mood changed.
As the president noted the record number of women in Congress, Democrats gave a standing ovation – and they began shouting: “USA!”
Republicans joined in – they all chanted together.
Bitter adversaries experienced a rare, happy moment of togetherness. And the president was right in the middle of it.
But Mr Maduro warned the US leader he risked a repeat of the Vietnam War if he intervened.
“Stop. Stop. Donald Trump! You are making mistakes that are going to stain your hands with blood and you are going to leave the presidency stained with blood,” he said.
“Let’s respect each other, or is it that you are going to repeat a Vietnam in Latin America?”
Sunday saw the expiry of a deadline set by several European countries – including France, the UK, Austria, Germany and Spain – for Mr Maduro to call early presidential elections. They said that they would recognise Mr Guaidó as interim president if no such pledge was forthcoming.
On Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Mr Guaidó had the “legitimacy to organise presidential elections.”
But Mr Maduro responded: “We don’t accept ultimatums from anyone. It’s like if I told the European Union: ‘I give you seven days to recognise the Republic of Catalonia, and if you don’t, we are going to take measures’.
“No, international politics can’t be based on ultimatums. That was the era of empires and colonies.”
What is the situation in Venezuela?
Thousands took to the streets of the capital Caracas on Saturday for protests in support of both President Maduro and Mr Guaidó.
Mr Maduro retains the support of the military, but ahead of the demonstrations Mr Guaidó received a boost when an air force general – Francisco Yanez – became the highest-ranking military official yet to pledge support for him.
Mr Guaidó says he has held private meetings with the military to win support for ousting Mr Maduro. He says he has also reached out to China, one of Mr Maduro’s most important backers.
What is Guaidó’s aid plan?
He does not control any territory in Venezuela, so instead he plans to set up collection centres in neighbouring countries where Venezuelans have fled to.