It’s a long time coming for some and a partisan outrage to others, but the impeachment proceedings of President Donald J. Trump are upon us. Since his inauguration in 2017 his personal and professional conduct have raised the specter of impeachment. Be it mental fitness, obstruction of various investigations, or emoluments, Trump has invited his removal on a near daily basis since being sworn in. The impeachment calls from the left side of the aisle have reached a boiling over point over the President’s abuse of foreign aid for his political advantage in the 2020 election and can no longer be kept at bay. What to Expect From Impeachment Proceedings
What to Expect from Impeachment Proceedings
The Founding Fathers also were extremely wary of foreign interference in elections and its effect on the young nation The Constitution states that impeachment can be brought against public officials for ‘’treason, bribery, high crimes and other misdemeanors.’’. And one of Congress’ categories for bringing impeachment is misuse of public office for personal gain. This provision is likely most applicable to Trump’s latest transgressions.
The basis of this Impeachment is a whistleblower complaint which alleges Trump attempted to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating the current frontrunner for the Democratic Presidential Nomination, Joe Biden. To entice the foreign leader to do his bidding, Trump put a hold on $391 million in military aid needed for Ukraine to defend itself against Russian-backed separatists. Despite being approved by Congress, the money sat frozen as Trump attempted to extort a political favor from another world leader.
The Impeachment inquiry will be spearheaded by the Adam Schiff-led House Intelligence Committee. Schiff has publicly stated his desire to hear the whistleblower (reportedly a CIA officer detailed to the White House) testify behind closed doors, as well as any other administration officials who were aware of the president’s actions and attempt to cover them up.
Another investigative matter for the Committee is the storage of the original transcript of the call between Trump and Zelensky. According to White House officials referenced in the whistleblower complaint, the transcript was placed on a computer system managed directly by the National Security Council. This computer is reserved only for highly sensitive government information and the transcript’s placement in it was an abuse of the system. White House officials mentioned in the complaint stated it was ‘’not the first time’’ politically sensitive information was placed on the system against protocol.
With Congress scheduled for a recess, many House representatives will return to their home districts to inform voters about the process and garner public support for impeachment. Once all available evidence is gathered, the House will determine whether or not to hold an impeachment vote.
At this point it seems likely that the House will move to impeach given the substance of the allegations and the Democratic advantage (235-198-1) among Representatives. Only a simple majority is needed for an Impeachment resolution to pass the House, at which point Democrats will select managers to present their case to the Senate. Trump is almost certainly to be brought to trial.
The Senate trial operates like a criminal one, and represents the most significant stumbling block towards removing the president from office. House managers will present their case and act like prosecutors. Trump will be afforded the opportunity to mount a defense and have his personal attorney present. The trial will be presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. In order to remove the President from office a two-thirds majority vote must be returned by the Senate. The political split in Congress’ upper house is 54 Republicans to 48 Democrats. Each Senator is required to swear an oath that they will act with honesty and due diligence. The determining factor of the trial will be whether House Democrats can make a convincing enough case to sway 18 Republican Senators to return a guilty verdict.
The proceedings still carry significant political risk. Trump still enjoys approval ratings in the low to mid-40’s depending on the poll. Regardless of which polls are assessed, his job approval rating exceeds the current amount of public support for impeachment. He has admitted to the worst of the alleged transgressions, but his GOP enablers have brushed off other misdeeds for the entirety of the President’s term. Ultimately the Democratic Party may be damned if they don’t and damned if they do. However the risk seems worthwhile considering the stakes. If Trump weren’t impeached, it would serve as at least a tacit endorsement of soliciting foreign aid in an election campaign while using Congressionally-approved military aid as leverage. If impeachment efforts fail, it serves as a stronger endorsement of such behavior from Trump’s allies and emboldens further lawlessness from this and future administrations. A swing and a miss could also incite Trump’s base and strengthen his reelection bid, a sadly ironic consequence given the issue at the heart of the matter. The stakes are high, but the risk is worthwhile to state emphatically that this type of presidential conduct will not go unchallenged.
Photo by Markus Spiske