Orrin Hatch was sworn in as the 46th President this morning following the impeachment and removal from office of Donald Trump. It was an extraordinary series of events which have led us to this.
After long-simmering investigations by committees in the House and Senate, by the special prosecutor Robert Mueller, and at the FBI, it was Julie Hirschfeld Davis of the New York Times who broke the story open over the spring and summer months of 2018. Detailing financial connections between Russian businessmen and associates of Vladimir Putin and the Trump family and members of his administration, traced through the intermediaries of banks in Cyprus, Davis unveiled the depths of influence the Russian government and its minions had over Donald Trump as a result of the hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to him, members of his family, associates, and their businesses.
Adding to Davis’ findings were those of Maggie Haberman, also of the New York Times, who brought to light the direct collaboration between Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, with the help of Michael Flynn, and agents of the Russian government in their attempts to influence the election. The revelations led to plea bargains which have landed Kushner and Flynn in prison. When it was discovered that former Vice President Mike Pence was in fact fully informed of the circumstances while he was defending Michael Flynn in the early weeks of the Trump administration, he was forced to resign his office in return for avoiding a prison sentence.
The House election in November, 2018 led to Democrats picking up 80 seats and control of the House, the largest gain of seats by the party out of power since the Republicans won 130 seats in the election of 1894. Democrats also managed to defend their seats in the Senate, including several in red states, and win formerly Republican seats in Nevada and Arizona. The 50-50 split that resulted, without a Vice President to break tie votes, set up a crisis in which the Senate could not appoint a majority leader, until Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, an independent who had been caucusing with the Republicans, and unhappy at attempts by Republicans to limit health care options for Americans and by Republican leadership opposition to Planned Parenthood, agreed to caucus with the Democrats and allow Charles Schumer to advance to the position of Majority Leader.
The Democratic leadership in the House soon launched proceedings against Donald Trump. He was impeached in the spring of 2019, and the case went to the Senate for trial. Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House and in the absence of a Vice-President, was next in the line of succession to ascend to the presidency. Recognizing the reluctance of Republican Senators to vote for impeachment if it meant she would become president, Pelosi resigned her office, leaving the Speaker of the House position open during the Senate trial, and making 88 year old Orrin Hatch, having kept his seat in the 2018 election and now President pro tempore of the Senate, next in the line of succession. With 70 Senators voting against him, Donald Trump was removed from office, and Orrin Hatch became president.
Ultimately, after many trials and tribulations, the institutions of the American government survived and constitutional democracy prevailed.