YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD TO FACE JUSTICE
PHILIP RUCKER DEMOCRATS seized control of the House while Republicans held the Senate on Tuesday in a national referendum on President Donald Trump that drew record numbers of voters to the polls and opened the door to tougher oversight of the White House over the next two years.
The dramatic conclusion of the most expensive and consequential midterms in modern times fell short of delivering the sweeping repudiation of Trump wished for by Democrats and the “resistance” movement. But Democrats’ takeover in the House still portended serious changes in Washington, as the party prepared to block Trump’s agenda and investigate his personal finances and potential ties to Russia.
An immediate post-election change to Trump’s cabinet came on Wednesday when Attorney-General Jeff Sessions resigned at the president’s request. Trump, who said to expect staff changes after the midterms, had repeatedly criticised Sessions’s performance.
“We thank Attorney-General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date,” Trump tweeted.
Trump had declined to answer a question about Sessions’ fate hours earlier at a combative news conference where he vowed to adopt a “warlike posture” in response to any attempt by House Democrats to investigate his administration.
Democrats have gained more than the 23 House seats needed to win a majority.
House Democrats are prepared to launch investigations of Trump and to closely scrutinise his policies on immigration, education and health care. But they are wary of immediately pursuing impeachment, concerned that such a move would undermine lawmakers who represent districts that Trump won in 2016.
Trump said investigations launched by the House would jeopardise prospects for bipartisan deals on issues such as trade, infrastructure and prescription drug costs.
In a new talking point, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican-Kentucky, cautioned Democrats against engaging in “presidential harassment” in the form of overly aggressive oversight. “The Democrats in the House will have to decide just how much presidential harassment is good strategy. I’m not sure it will work for them,” he said on Wednesday.
At her own news conference, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat-California, credited the Democratic victory in the House to the party’s focus on healthcare issues. She said Democrats had a “responsibility for oversight” but said committees’ efforts would not be “scattershot”.
“We’ll know what we are doing and we’ll do it right,” she said.
Jockeying for House leadership positions began in earnest on Wednesday. Pelosi is widely considered to be the front-runner to retake the speaker’s gavel, though dozens of Democratic candidates had called for new leadership during the campaign.
Trump himself threw support behind Pelosi’s bid, tweeting on Wednesday that she “has earned this great honour” and that the GOP would “perhaps” lend her some votes if Democrats “give her a hard time”.
On the Republican side, House freedom caucus chairperson Jim Jordan of Ohio said he would challenge Republican Kevin McCarthy of California for the role of minority leader. The move underscored conservatives’ desire to expand their power within the GOP conference after a bruising election.
House GOP leadership elections are scheduled for Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Republicans won hotly contested Senate races in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, with Trump’s racially charged warnings about undocumented immigrants and demonisation of Democrats appearing to help withstand the “blue wave” the GOP once feared.
But Democrats – propelled by a rejection of Trumpism in the nation’s suburbs and from women and minority voters especially – notched victories in areas that just two years ago helped send Trump to the White House.
Women played a pivotal role in Democratic victories.
The Democratic Party won their support by 19 points, the largest margin in the history of midterm exit polling, compared with their margin of four points in 2014. Independent women voted for Democratic candidates by a 17-point margin after narrowly supporting Republicans in 2014. And white women, a reliable voting bloc for the GOP, split their votes evenly between the two parties this year, after favouring Republicans by 14 points in 2014 and by 19 points in 2010.
The Democrats’ new House majority was also propelled by a record number of female candidates. Women hold 84 House seats, but that share is projected to expand to 100 or more when all results are tallied. Across the country, 277 women were on the ballot on Tuesday for Congress and governorships, an unprecedented number that included 210 House candidates.
Overall, the party picked up at least seven governorships, performing well across much of the upper Midwest and even in Kansas, where Laura Kelly was elected governor over Trump’s handpicked candidate, Kris Kobach.
In Wisconsin, Democrat Tony Evers bested Governor Scott Walker, once a Republican star who ran for president in 2016.
But Democrats were disappointed elsewhere. Senators Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri were defeated, while Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat-Florida, his re-election in doubt, said his race was proceeding to a recount.
Democrats kept two hotly contested Senate seats in West Virginia and Montana and picked up one in Nevada, where Democratic Represetative Jacky Rosen prevailed over Republican Senator Dean Heller. Two of the liberal movement’s greatest hopes for this election cycle, Democrats Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum, struggled to overcome some of the most overt racial attacks since the civil rights era and make history as the first black governors in Georgia and Florida, respectively.
While Gillum conceded to Republican Ron DeSantis, a Trump ally, Abrams told supporters she would not concede to Republican Brian Kemp while the race was too close to call. If each candidate earns less than 50% of the vote, they would go head-to-head in a December run-off election.
Another Democratic star, Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, lost his spirited challenge to Senator Ted Cruz, Republican, despite raising record sums of money and attracting grass-roots support.
Midterm elections traditionally are referendums on the party in power, but Trump sought to ensure that this one would be a referendum on his presidency.
Returning to his 2016 campaign playbook, the president delivered fiery speeches that drew massive and enthusiastic crowds, but contained a breathtaking barrage of falsehoods, invective and demagoguery. Describing himself in the closing weeks as a “nationalist”, Trump made a caravan of Central American migrants preparing to seek asylum in the US a dominant theme.
The racial overtones put that explosive form of politics on the ballot, with major stakes for Republicans. The GOP is now overwhelmingly white, while Democrats have a much more multi-ethnic coalition that represents the direction in which the country’s demographics are heading.
Former president Barack Obama congratulated Democrats for “electing record numbers of women and young veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, a surge of minority candidates and a host of outstanding young leaders”.
“The more Americans who vote, the more our elected leaders look like America,” Obama said. | NINETY-something-year-olds worldwide are being tried for their political crimes, so what makes Joao Rodrigues think he is too old to face the music?
The arguments he puts forward in an effort to escape prosecution is that he is 79, travelling to Johannesburg from Pretoria for the trial is tiring, he walks with the aid of a walking stick, has diabetes and a heart condition, a fading memory, and should have been tried earlier. I would like to introduce him to an 81-year-old I know who is working two jobs, travelling overseas regularly and never complains.
But more to the point, there have been a series of 90-year-olds in the media lately who are facing trial for their role in crimes committed as long as 78 years ago. This month a 94-year-old former SS guard faces trial for his complicity in mass murder in a concentration camp in Stutthof – seven decades after World War II. Currently, 28 prosecutions are under way of Nazi concentration camp guards, most of them over 90.
Four months ago, eight retired Chilean military officers were sentenced to 15 years in prison for a murder committed 45 years ago. Similarly, this year four former high-ranking Guatemalan military officers were sentenced to 58 years in prison for forced disappearances and sexual abuse committed in 1981. In 2016, an Argentine Air Force brigadier, Omar Graffigna, at the age of 90, went on trial for forced disappearances.
The message these cases are sending is that you are never too old to face justice, and this is a warning to all those who think they will get away with crimes against humanity with the passage of time, and national processes of reconciliation.
Our reconciliation process was arguably over generous in offering apartheid killers amnesty, if they gave a full disclosure of their crimes. The process was inherently flawed in that many of the special branch murders did not fully disclose their crimes or they gave inaccurate versions of what happened, and still received amnesty, which went against the grain of amnesty in return for the truth.
Rodrigues may not have been a senior ranking military officer or a concentration camp guard complicit in the murder of hundreds of thousands of people, but that does not absolve him of complicity in a brutal apartheid-era murder, and his intentional cover-up over decades.
He was given fair warning, both at the time of the TRC and by Judge Billy Mothle in the Timol inquest last year, that if he came clean and told the truth, he could escape prosecution for his role in the crime, but at every opportunity he stuck to the story the Special Branch concocted to cover up Ahmed
Timol’s murder at John Vorster Square in 1971.
The judge found that not only had he perjured himself in the original 1971 inquest, and again in the 2017 inquest, but he had obstructed and defeated the ends of justice. The National Prosecuting Authority believes they have enough evidence to prove his complicity in Timol’s murder.
The prosecution of Rodrigues is significant, not only for the sake of justice and Timol’s family, but it sets a precedent in terms of the prosecution of other members of the Special Branch who tortured and murdered anti-apartheid activists and never owned up to their crimes before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Democrat Jennifer Wexton talks to supporters flanked by her husband, Andrew, in Dulles, Virginia. Wexton beat incumbent Barbara Comstock in Virginia’s 10th congressional district. |