by Alexandra Huzyk ’20
On Tuesday, September 24, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ordered an impeachment inquiry on President Trump. The order was prompted by a phone call that occurred between Trump and the Ukranian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. In this phone call, Zelensky reportedly asked for missiles, and Trump, in turn, asked for an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
The call was initially reported by a U.S. intelligence official as a whistleblower complaint. He or she claims: “I have received information from multiple U.S. government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” The whistleblower claims that he or she was told the transcript of this particular call was transferred to a separate electronic system, for highly sensitive classified information.
Democrat Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is in charge of leading this investigation and has confirmed that the whistleblower, who remains unnamed for safety reasons, will testify in the future.
Schiff says that Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, will be summoned, as he has previously encouraged Ukraine to investigate both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
Giuliani had reportedly asked Ukraine to examine Hunter Biden, due to his involvement with a Ukrainian company that was under investigation. At the time, no evidence of illegal activity surfaced. However, later in the Obama Administration, Vice President Biden was involved in firing the Ukrainian prosecutor general.
In the White House transcripts of President Trump’s call to Zelensky, released on Wednesday, Sept. 25, Trump is recorded as having specifically asked if this matter could be further investigated.
Upon being asked if he was pressured into conducting this favor, Zelensky says that he was not coerced into anything. However, investigators believe that pressure from the White House began months before the call occurred.
Not only had Vice President Mike Pence canceled plans to attend Zelensky’s inauguration, but Trump had suspended $400 million of aid that was approved to go to Ukraine.
Kevin McCarthy, leader of the House of Republicans and head of House efforts against impeachment, claims that Trump has done nothing illegal or worthy of impeachment. He believes that none of Trump’s actions rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors that justify discussion of impeachment.
In contrast, Pelosi says that it is not just the call between Trump and Zelensky that should be considered; it is the sequencing of events that should inform the President’s actions.
Since Pelosi’s order, the Trump campaign has focused on social media and fundraising messaging. One message that has taken shape is the portrayal of Democrats as willing to sacrifice all matters of domestic policy, such as gun rights and healthcare, for the sake of Trump’s impeachment.
More than half of Americans, including a large majority of Democrats, approve of the impeachment inquiry. Having previously been accused of collusion with Russia in the Mueller investigation, many Democrats feel that Trump’s involvement with Ukraine is not only illegal but also deserving of impeachment.
On the other hand, many Republicans do not deem Trump’s actions illegal or different than any other actions of past presidents. This partisan divide is emblematic of the larger divide over whether or not Trump is deserving of impeachment.
In the upcoming weeks, House Democrats will conduct investigations through separate committees and submit their information to the House Judiciary Committee—traditionally known for dealing with formal matters of impeachment. This committee must first approve all evidence before the House votes.
With Democrats holding the majority of seats in the House, it is predicted that the majority of House members will vote for the impeachment of Trump. If this occurs, Chief Justice John Roberts will conduct a televised trial in which all 100 members of the upper chamber of the Senate would serve as the jury.
As Republicans control the Senate, they would hold a central role in determining the ruling of the trial.