Trump and Johnson, speaking on world stage, keep an eye on troubles at home
INTERNATIONAL – US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain share a certain affinity and style of politics. And as they both took the world stage at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, they shared something else: gathering political clouds back home in their capitals.
In Washington, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, was convening a meeting with the entire House Democratic caucus amid rising momentum for impeachment, after revelations that President Donald Trump pressed Ukraine’s president for dirt on his leading Democratic rival, former Vice President Joseph Biden Jr, while blocking American aid to Kiev.
Trump has acknowledged raising questions about Biden and accusations of corruption with Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in a July 25 telephone call. He also personally ordered his staff to freeze more than $391 million (R5.8 billion) in aid to Ukraine in the days before he pressed Zelensky to investigate Biden.
The timing of the decision to block the aid and Trump’s involvement, which were first reported by The Washington Post, further fueled the intense debate over the president’s effort to persuade Ukraine to examine unsubstantiated corruption accusations involving Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
On Tuesday, Trump dismissed the Democratic calls for impeachment as a new “witch hunt”, and described impeachment as a strategy for next year’s presidential election.
“I’m leading in the polls and they have no idea how to stop me,” he told reporters minutes before his annual address to the General Assembly. “The only way they can try is through impeachment.”
In most polls, though, the president trails the leading Democratic candidates.
In London, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted illegally when he suspended Parliament during the roiling debate over Britain’s plans to withdraw from the EU. The ruling was a striking rebuke of the prime minister and means that legislators will return to session three weeks earlier than he had scheduled.
Johnson has already suffered an extraordinary series of legal political defeats since becoming prime minister in July. He earlier outraged both the opposition Labour Party — and several members of his own Conservative party — when he announced the plan to suspend Parliament for five weeks at the height of the Brexit crisis.
And before legislators were dismissed on September 14, they successfully passed legislation that prohibited the government from withdrawing from the EU on October 31 without a deal outlining its future relationship with Brussels.
Twenty-one Conservatives voted with the opposition in favor of the law, and Johnson promptly expelled them from his party.
Johnson will also be returning to Parliament with a new scandal hanging over him after the Sunday Times of London reported this week that, when Johnson was mayor of London, his office had directed tens of thousands of pounds in government money to a young entrepreneur who was a close friend.
In New York, Johnson suggested he would hold firm to his “do or die” Brexit strategy. “I strongly disagree with this decision of the Supreme Court,” he told the BBC in an interview. “I think the most important thing is that we get on and deliver Brexit on October 31.”
Trump and Johnson were scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly session for their second in-person meeting since the British leader took office. Trump has periodically offered his support for Johnson, often through Twitter.
This month, as Johnson faced a revolt in Parliament, Trump told reporters, “Boris knows how to win.”
NEW YORK TIMES