Amid escalating trade tariff disputes and an impeachment trial about to begin over his alleged misuse of office, Donald Trump sought to sell his presidency of the United States to the global business community gathered at Davos, Switzerland.
Donald Trump addressed the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, hours before his historic impeachment trial was to reconvene in the US Senate in Washington, insisting that America’s economic turnaround has been “nothing short of spectacular”.
Trump reminded the audience that when he spoke here two years ago, early in his presidency: “I told you that we had launched the great American comeback.”
“Today I’m proud to declare the United States is in the midst of an economic boom, the likes of which the world has never seen before,” the president said.
The two-day Swiss visit will test Donald Trump’s ability to balance his anger over being impeached with a desire to project leadership on the world stage.
Speculation had mounted that Mr Trump would cancel the trip due to the Senate trial, but aides said he remains focused on producing results for the American people.
Act on climate, Trump urged
Climate issues were to be a main theme at the forum and Act On Climate was written in the snow at the landing zone where Trump’s Marine One helicopter set down in Davos.
The President who has pulled the US out of the Paris Climate accord however, said he was attending the forum to encourage businesses to invest in the US.
“America is thriving. America is flourishing and yes, America is winning again like never before,” Mr Trump said before talking about a newly signed trade deal with China and a pending trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
Trump also boasted of record low unemployment, stock market gains and millions removed from unemployment. He planned to meet with world leaders and business executives after the speech.
Swooping in for his second appearance at the conference, Trump was set to depart on Wednesday, jetting back to Washington, which is consumed by the impeachment trial.
The Democratic-controlled House impeached the Republican president last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after it was revealed that he had pressed Ukraine’s president to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat and a Trump political rival.
Trump withheld foreign aid that Congress had approved for the Eastern European nation and dangled the prospect of an Oval Office meeting as leverage. The President denies any wrongdoing and insists that Democrats want to remove him from office because they know they cannot deny him reelection in November.
US disputes with EU over trade and paying taxes
Trump would be forced to leave office if convicted, but the Republican-controlled Senate is expected to acquit him. Trump said he would attend the Davos forum despite the awkward timing because he wants to encourage businesses to come back to the US.
The White House has not named any of the business leaders Donald Trump says he will meet with. But he is scheduled to hold talks Tuesday and Wednesday with the leaders of Iraq, Pakistan, Switzerland and Iraq’s self-governing Kurdish region, as well as the forum’s founder, the White House said.
Trump also will have his first meeting with the new European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to hold the position.
That meeting could be the most significant, said analyst Matt Goodman, given Trump’s many disagreements with Europe over tax and trade policy, like a new digital levy by the French that will force American tech giants such as Amazon and Google to pay up.
“She’s new and she’s formidable,” said Mr Goodman, who studies international economic policy as a senior vice president at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
He predicted a difficult year ahead for US-EU relations. Trump has smarted over the French tax, and his administration has announced plans to impose retaliatory tariffs of up to 100 per cent on cheese, wine, lipstick and other French imports.
France has threatened to fight back. But after speaking to Mr Trump on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that they had a “great discussion” about the digital tax and “will work together on a good agreement to avoid tariff escalation”.
Trump later retweeted Mr Macron, adding the word: ”Excellent!”
The US has also threatened to impose retaliatory duties on 7.5 billion US dollars worth of European planes, cheese, wine and other goods in a separate dispute over subsidies for Airbus, a competitor to Chicago-based Boeing Co.
Trump has sought to wring trade concessions from the EU by threatening tariffs on German cars, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
What you need to know about the Donald Trump impeachment trial
The usually dignified US senate could see rising tensions along party lines as Donald Trump’s impeachment begins.
The upper chamber of US congress will see rock star legal teams cram the well just a few feet from each other and US chief justice John Roberts, as proceedings get under way.
Democrats in the US house of representatives impeached the President last month on two charges: abuse of power by withholding US military aid to Ukraine as he pressed that country to investigate Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden, and obstruction of congress by refusing to comply with their investigation.
Trump is just the third American president, after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, to face a Senate impeachment trial.
Johnson and Clinton were acquitted by the Senate.
There is precedent for international travel by an impeached US leader. During his impeachment over an affair with a White House intern, Bill Clinton visited Japan, South Korea, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He travelled to Jordan for King Hussein’s funeral in February 1999, just a few days before he was acquitted. Two days after acquittal, President Clinton went to Mexico on a state visit.
Trump is planning to make his first visit to India at the end of February, probably after the conclusion of his impeachment trial. He also has talked about travelling soon to Beijing, although he has given no dates, to open a new round of trade talks with China.
This is what to watch when the US president’s trial begins at around 1pm local time (6pm GMT) on Tuesday:
– Ground rules
The senate opens with a debate on the structure and rules of the proceedings. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is proposing a condensed, two-day calendar for opening arguments on the articles of impeachment passed by the US house on December 18.
McConnell’s ground rules are outlined in a four-page resolution that must be voted on as one of the first orders of business. It pushes back any votes on witnesses until later in the process, rather than up front, as Democrats had demanded.
But McConnell’s plan on witnesses lines up with the organising resolution which set the structure of former president Bill Clinton’s trial in 1999.
– Drawing the curtain
“At all times,” according to senate rules, a majority of senators present can vote to close the proceedings and debate in private. That would mean the TV cameras will be shut off and everyone who is not a member of the senate will be kicked out of the chamber until the senators choose to reopen it.
Senators did just that at various points during the Clinton trial. Mitch McConnell then argued that members of the chamber listen to each other better in private.
– The long haul
After the four days of opening arguments – with a maximum of 24 hours per side – senators will be allowed up to 16 hours for questions to the prosecution and defence, followed by four hours of debate. Only then will there be votes on calling other witnesses.
Senate rules say the trial must proceed six days a week – all but Sunday – until it is resolved.
– Off the grid
Watch out for a coterie of Democratic senators who literally would rather be somewhere else – specifically Iowa and New Hampshire – ahead of their party’s first votes over the right to choose who will attempt to unseat President Trump in the November election.
Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota may show signs of fatigue as they fly between Washington and these places – as well as coping with being off the internet for hours at a time.
Also look out for more video calls to supporters and ads designed to give them a measure of presence in the early nominating states.
– The prosecutors
Leading the case for the house is intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff of California, and judiciary committee chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York. Five other Democrats round out the prosecution team, a group US house speaker Nancy Pelosi said she chose in part for their experience with the law.
Zoe Lofgren of California has worked on three impeachment inquiries, starting with the one that helped persuade former president Richard Nixon to resign.
Val Demings of Florida is not a lawyer, but she is a former police chief, and as member of both committees is deeply familiar with the case against Trump. Hakeem Jeffries is a lawyer and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, so he is close to Nancy Pelosi’s ranks.
Pelosi also chose two freshmen who helped flip the house from Republican control in 2018. Sylvia Garcia of Texas is a former judge. And Jason Crow of Colorado is a retired Army Ranger who was one of the seven new members with national security backgrounds to call for President Trump’s impeachment over his conduct with Ukraine.
– For the president
Donald Trump has cast some big personalities in his defence team.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone and personal lawyer Jay Sekulow are expected to lead the argument that Trump committed no crimes, that abuse of power is not an impeachable offence and that the president is a victim of a political “witch hunt” by Democrats.
Bringing experience both in constitutional law and the politics of impeachment, he has added retired law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated Bill Clinton. The team also will include Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general.
You may recall Alan Dershowitz from notorious cases when he defended Claus von Bülow’s successful appeal of his 1982 conviction for the attempted murder of his wife, Sunny, and O. J. Simpson in his murder trial in 1995.
The team, less experienced in the senate than the house prosecutors as a whole, visited the senate chamber on Monday, in part to test the equipment they expect to use for audio-visual presentations.
Look out for signs of tension involving the president’s outside legal team and lawyers within the White House. On Sunday, Alan Dershowitz tried to distance himself from the president.
– In numbers
100: The total number of senators.
53: The Republican majority.
51: The number of senators who must agree on almost anything to make it happen during an impeachment trial.
Four: The number of Republican senators who must join the Democrats to get to the magical 51 level.
Two thirds: The proportion of senators required to convict and remove a president from office.
So, 67 members of the Senate would have to vote to convict, if every senator is voting.
– The gang
Both sides will be keeping tabs on the senate’s moderates for an emerging gang of three to four who could influence the outcome on such matters as whether to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton. That vote will not be taken for days, if not weeks.
Republican senator Susan Collins of Maine has been meeting with a small number of her party colleagues who want to consider witness testimony and documents that were not part of the house impeachment investigation.
Watch Republican senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska for signs of whether this group can stick together and force the senate to consider additional material.