Impeachment inquiries into President Trump have begun
by Abbey Delk
Staff Judiciary Member
America is gearing up to say, “You’re fired!” And this time, it’s Donald Trump himself on the chopping block. For almost the entirety of Trump’s reign in the Oval Office, there have been calls for impeachment. But as of Sept. 24th, when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry of the president, the wheels have finally been put in motion. After allegations that President Trump withheld foreign aid from Ukraine to pressure its leader, President Volodymyr Zelesky, to investigate former Vice President Biden surfaced, Pelosi finally yielded to the wishes of many progressives in the Democratic party and has announced an official impeachment inquiry. However, the road ahead is not a smooth one. With Congress split along party lines as to whether or not the president has even committed an offense worthy of investigation, the future of this process is not clear. What is certain is that the coming months are about to be a fascinating battle over the amount of power Americans believe held by the Chief Executive.
Just to be clear, Donald Trump is not being impeached, for now. If impeachment is a marathon, the House is just beginning its warm up stretches. The impeachment process is a complicated one, and the first step is the inquiry. For many House Democrats, this investigation seemed inevitable, but quite a few of them would have preferred a formal inquiry to have come much sooner. After the release of the Mueller report, there were calls to begin the impeachment process over perceived instances of obstruction by the president concerning the federal investigation into his relations with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election. However, Speaker Pelosi held back on any firm commitment to the idea of impeachment until quite recently, as beliefs prevail that most Americans do not support or even understand the impeachment process.
So what is impeachment all about? Is Donald Trump going to be dragged out of the White House kicking and screaming? Probably not. Even if the House has enough evidence against the president to draw up Articles of Impeachment, they do not have the power to remove him from office. If a simple majority in the House were to vote to impeach Trump (House Democrats outnumber House Republicans 235 to 198), the torch then passes over to the Senate, which is responsible for holding a trial. The president is only removed from office if at least two thirds of the Senate votes to do so. Republicans currently hold a majority in the Senate, so it seems unlikely that President Donald Trump will be kicked to the curb during this term.
However, this is not to say that the current impeachment inquiry is not significant. Even the consideration of the impeachment of a sitting president is a serious matter, particularly considering the upcoming 2020 presidential election, in which Donald Trump hopes to win a second term in office. Currently, a heated debate rages in both Congress and the public at large over whether the current president has even committed an impeachable offense. The Constitution states that a president of the United States may be impeached over “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but this language is vague enough to inspire a great deal of disagreement. Donald Trump has been accused of withholding aid to Ukraine in order to force its president to comply with an investigation into the Biden family. These allegations arose initially after reports of a phone call between Trump and President Zelesky in which he asks the Ukrainian leader to open an investigation into the Bidens. The source of these reports was an anonymous whistleblower within the intelligence community concerned over whether the president’s request to Ukraine constituted as an abuse of power. Not long after these allegations went public, the White House released the transcript of this call, hoping to nip the issue in the bud. However, the official whistleblower report was released soon after that, and impeachment inquiry followed swiftly on its heels. Particularly notable in this report was the decision to remove the transcript from the system typically used to store documents of this nature and instead transfer it to a separate system used to hold high-classified documents. This action, for many, signals that White House staff was aware of the seriousness of what had transpired on that phone call and a desire to bury it, safe from view of the public and the media.
But has the president actually done anything wrong? A quick scroll-through of Trump’s Twitter reveals that he certainly doesn’t think so. “The Greatest Witch Hunt in the history of our Country!” he tweeted on October 1st (he clearly never read Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”). But if enough evidence is gathered in the six committees, Speaker Pelosi has designated to investigate the allegations against Trump in extorting favors from foreign governments for his own political gain. The president should prepare himself for the worst, pitchforks and all. The best Democrats can hope for is evidence of a clear connection between the withholding of aid from Ukraine and Trump’s request to its government to investigate his political opponent. Essentially, if Democrats can find the smoking gun, they will be one step closer to pulling the trigger.
However, remember that even if damning evidence surfaces, the president is safe from removal, as long as Republicans maintain a majority in the Senate. With the 2020 election looming, it is very likely Trump will use this safety net to claim innocence and inflame his loyal following into believing the whole process was a waste of time. Democrats will have to be very careful, lest they run the risk of handing a second term over to Trump on a silver platter. Is risking the outcome of the presidential election worth it? We’ll have to leave that up to Congress to decide. Either way, grab your popcorn, America, because we’re in for a show.