Impeachment doesn’t actually mean removal, capiche
By Zeke Tweedie
Staff quid pro quo pro
Donald J. Trump has become the third president to be impeached. On December 18th, the House of Representatives voted to pass the two articles introduced, both on near-party line votes. The articles, for abuse of power and obstruction of congress, were passed on the strength of the Democratic caucus alone, with neither receiving a vote from a single Republican. An historic vote, Trump has now joined Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton as the only presidents to be impeached by the House. The charges stem from the July 25th phone call between President Trump and newly elected Ukranian President Vlodymir Zelensky, during which President Trump appeared to ask Mr. Zelensky to open an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden, and his business dealings with large Ukranian companies. The caveat– that is, the quid pro quo of it all– is that routine military aid for Ukraine, several hundred million dollars of it, had been held up for the past few weeks before this, leading some to believe that Mr. Trump was conditioning the aid on Mr. Zelensky’s willingness to open an investigation into one of the President’s premier political rivals. Sometime between the day of the call and August 12th, an unidentified whistleblower (reportedly a CIA agent) filed a complaint on the call, and raised their concerns on its legality.
Since then, the process has moved forward slowly but surely, well documented along the way by The Paper, and others. The story soon became public, and investigations were opened by the House in multiple congressional committees. With the new testimony from various involved diplomats and officials, much of it supporting the notion that the President had conditioned the military aid on the Biden investigations, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ordered the Judiciary Committee to begin hearings for the drafting of articles of impeachment. Much of this process occurred publicly, with hearings featuring testimony on the process of constitutional impeachment. When the dust had settled, the two articles were formally introduced to the House, where they passed.
Now, the second phase of the impeachment process has begun. After a period of waiting after the House vote, Pelosi and her assigned impeachment managers, a group of congressional Democrats who will represent the case for impeachment in the Senate trial,
brought the articles to the Senate. The Senate is tasked with the actual trial of the President. The impeachment managers will act as the prosecution, and the President has selected counselors that will present his defense. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, will act as the judge, and the senators as the jury. Each side will present its case, followed by a period of senator questioning, after which a vote will be held on whether to continue the trial, whether by witness testimony or other means. When the trial has ended, the Senate will vote either to convict or acquit. A conviction must be achieved through a two-thirds majority (67 votes). This threshold, of course, was not reached in the two previous presidential impeachments.
After a session dedicated to the rules of the trial, the impeachment managers began to present their case, taking almost all of their time allotted over three days, to not only reassert their arguments from before, but set a foundation for the coming vote regarding witness testimony. They reiterated their view that the President had conditioned military aid for “dirt” on a political opponent, thereby attempting to solicit foreign interference in the upcoming presidential election. They also protested the hesitance of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow witness testimony. This, they said, was proof that he was not a fair juror, and his position of leadership and influence were becoming a stain on the justness of the trial. McConnell, who stated back in December that everything he did would be completely “coordinated with the White House,” has done his best to keep the trial as short as possible, trying to minimize what he sees as a partisan exercise.
Next, the defense took the floor, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Mr. Trump’s private attorney, Jay Sekulow. In defense of the president, they argued that no direct connection had ever been made between the hold up of aid and the request for investigations,
and that all of the testimony regarding this had been, on some level, conjecture. Thus, they also accused the Democrats of attempting to “steal” the 2020 election, by invalidating the de facto nominee for the Republican ticket. This echoed an argument that had been made by moderates on both sides of the aisle in the early days of the impeachment process, that the most Democratic solution was to leave the issue up to the voters in the nearing election, and allow them to decide if they approved of it directly.
During this entire process, the senators, who are required to be in attendance, are absolutely forbidden from speaking, a grave task for many of them. While this has had real significance on other political events (two Democratic frontrunners, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have been taken off of the campaign trail), many viewers have relished in the chance to watch their senators sit back and listen, with nothing to keep them company but their cold milk, the only drink, aside from water, allowed in the chamber during the trial.
In the past few days, however, the questioning section of the trial has begun. Though senators are still not allowed to talk, they have been submitting questions to be read allowed by Chief Justice Roberts, and answered by the counselors. While much of this process is routine and staged, this has produced some surprises, including a suggestive argument for the defense by Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who seemingly stated that a president who believed that his or her own reelection was in the national interest could go to great lengths to assure that, an argument that was quickly criticized by Democrats.
Another wrench has recently been thrown into the mix, with the January 27th leaking of a transcript of former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s upcoming memoir. In it, he reportedly says that Trump privately remarked that the aid would not be released until President Zelensky fulfilled his request and opened an investigation, an account that would directly contradict the defense team’s main argument, that there was not necessarily a connection between the aid and the investigations. While this revelation has renewed calls for witnesses to testify in front of the Senate, namely Bolton himself, most counts predict that McConnell still has the votes to prevent this, and that the trial will soon come to an end, and the President will be acquitted. If this trial has taught us anything, however, it is that nothing is really set in stone. Until it is..