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(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The Senate trial of President Donald Trump is proving less Soviet than expected. Representative Adam Schiff of California, the House impeachment manager, last week presented a coherent, damning and often eloquent narrative of Trump’s guilt, backed by text messages, emails, letters and sworn witness testimony previously delivered to the House.As my colleague Jonathan Bernstein points out, the weight of such facts can alter political gravity. Even Republicans who have made up their minds to acquit - which almost certainly describes the entire GOP caucus - have had to sit through the avalanche of evidence. Surely it weighs on at least a few consciences. Meanwhile, writes New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, ignoring the facts carries risks of its own: “The impeachment trial is an exercise in displaying the Republican Party’s institutional culpability in Trump’s contempt for the rule of law. At some point, they will have to decide to damn the president or to damn themselves.”It’s a foregone conclusion: Republican senators will damn themselves to infinity and beyond. The question isn’t what Republican senators will decide next week, but where the Republican Party will go after Trump’s acquittal. That answer, too, is alarmingly clear: further downward. From 1994 to 2015, give or take, the party was tumbling down a slippery slope. Since 2016, Republicans have been falling at 32 feet per second squared.Acquitting Trump is not the same as shrugging at the president’s venality and vindictiveness, or mumbling and walking away when a reporter asks whether you believe it’s OK to solicit foreign sabotage of a U.S. election. Acquitting Trump is a bold, affirmative act.The acquittal will mark the senators as political made men. It will be their induction into Trump’s gangster ethos, using constitutional powers to enable corruption. For those who have hovered on the periphery of Trump’s political gangland, there is no route back to innocence.Many long ago crossed that Rubicon, proclaiming their fealty to “the chosen one.” But acquittal will transform even the most reticent Republicans into conspirators against democracy and rule of law.It will not be long before they are called upon to defend the indefensible again. And they will do it, acquiescing to the next figurative or literal crime just as they did to Trump’s videotaped boast of sexual assaults, his horrifying sellouts to Russian President Vladimir Putin, his personal use of charitable contributions intended for veterans, his brutality toward children, or his quotidian blitzes against decency and democracy.Schiff’s repeated use of the word “cheat” to describe Trump’s posture toward U.S. elections was less an accounting of past performance than a guarantee of future results. “No one is really making the argument, ‘Donald Trump would never do such a thing,’ because of course we know that he would, and of course we know that he did,” Schiff told the Senate last week. “He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to.”Whether the game is golf or politics or business, Trump cheats. On trial for seeking foreign interference in the 2020 election, after having been the beneficiary of foreign interference in the 2016 election, Trump will find many willing accomplices before November. His presidency is a strategic boon to multiple U.S. adversaries, most prominently Putin. Another modest investment in Trump’s presidency could yield an even larger return - destroying, for a generation or more, American democracy not only as a vehicle of ethical government but also as a protector (aspirationally if not always actually) of human dignity.This is not cynicism. It’s the reality of U.S. politics in 2020. Acquitting Trump will destroy what’s left of the Republican Party’s claims to ethical legitimacy and pave the way for the further erosion of democracy. The only question that remains is how much more corruption the non-MAGA majority of Americans is willing to take.To contact the author of this story: Francis Wilkinson at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Newman at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Francis Wilkinson writes editorials on politics and U.S. domestic policy for Bloomberg Opinion. He was executive editor of the Week. He was previously a writer for Rolling Stone, a communications consultant and a political media strategist.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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An international outbreak of respiratory illness sparked by a novel coronavirus has spread from its origins in central China to at least 11 countries, with more than 1,200 confirmed cases - including a presumed case in Canada - and over 40 deaths.Like previous outbreaks, including the SARS virus 17 years ago, the flu-like disease poses a risk to economies around the world as fear and confusion lead to abrupt changes in behaviour, decreased economic activity and a ripple effect across sectors that threatens everything from productivity to consumer prices.The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome pandemic of 2003 cost the Chinese economy up to US$20 billion, according to the Asian Development Bank, as travel warnings and transit shutdowns discouraged consumption, foreign tourists stayed away and local residents stopped going out.“The travel and tourism sectors were most obviously hit, although that ripples through the entire economy,” said Richard Smith, a professor of health economics at the University of Exeter Medical School.“But many effects are short-lived during an outbreak as once the panic is over people go back to business as usual.”Chinese authorities clamped down on mass transit during the SARS outbreak, hampering commutes, shopping runs and social outings. The national securities regulatory commission closed stock and futures markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen for two weeks to prevent viral transmission. And Beijing ordered movie theatres, internet cafes and other venues to shut down temporarily while hotels, conference centres, restaurants and galleries saw visitors almost disappear completely.China’s response to the current crisis appears to be swifter, and the disease less virulent, but the country now boasts a far more extensive high-speed rail network than it did in 2003, and its economy is six times larger, upping the risk of transmission and the repercussions of an epidemic.“China is the engine of the global economy, churning out goods,” said German health economist Fred Roeder.Its critical role in international shipping may be thrown into disarray as authorities begin to hold back some ships from entering the port at Wuhan, a key hub on the Yangtze River.“If they cannot leave it creates huge delays in the supply chain and value chain of businesses all across the world,” Roeder said. “It could actually hit the latest generation of smartphone if ports are shutting down.”Manufacturing could also feel the crunch as supply chains stall, he said.Roeder has felt firsthand the disruptive power of a pandemic. In the summer of 2003 the teenage Berliner was eagerly gearing up for a United Nations youth conference that would take him to Taipei, but the event was cancelled a few days beforehand due to SARS. The epidemic also sparked layoffs and time away from work. At one point Singapore Airlines asked its 6,600 cabin crew to take unpaid leave. Children stayed home from school, prompting more parents to shirk their job duties and further reducing productivity, said AltaCorp Capital analyst Chris Murray.“I was losing guys left, right and centre as people were quarantined,” recalled Murray, based in Toronto - the epicentre of the SARS pandemic outside of Asia. The disease infected 438 Canadians in total and caused 44 deaths in the Toronto area.The economic damage culminated with World Health Organization’s one-week travel advisory for the city in April 2003, costing the Canadian economy an estimated $5.25 billion that year.The outbreak of H1N1, or swine flu, in 2009 also sparked work “dislocations,” Murray said. “It went from, ‘Maybe it’ll be okay,’ to sheer panic.”Freelancers and gig economy workers such as musicians or ride-hail drivers may feel the pinch more acutely, since they can't rely on a steady wage when demand shrinks."It's something that unfortunately has happened before in a similar way and it tends to affect areas like retail," said Carolyn Wilkins, senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, said this week. "People don’t go out, they don’t fly in planes, they don’t do as much tourism to the affected areas," she said.The fallout makes workers ranging from servers to wholesale bakers to non-unionized hotel staff more vulnerable. Meanwhile spending or investment plans by larger companies may have to be delayed, said Roeder.It is not clear how lethal the new coronavirus is or even whether it is as dangerous as the ordinary flu, which kills about 3,500 people every year in Canada alone.“Still, we should be extremely worried about the economic effects of this,” Roeder said, calling on Chinese authorities to work transparently with Western governments and disease control experts to mitigate the crisis.“At the end of the day, it hits the entire economy. No one benefits from this.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2020.Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press