Opinion | Trump behavior patently warrants impeachment | I
February 16, 2020
President Trump’s impeachment was unprecedented in a number of ways. It was the first time in United States history the Senate impeachment trial included no additional witnesses or evidence, the first time a senator voted to remove a member of his or her own party and the first time the opposition party voted unanimously in the Senate to remove the president.
It was the shortest impeachment trial the country has ever seen. It was a solemn time for the country that only exacerbated existing divisions, but for the sake of the institutions, it had to be done.
The President was impeached on two accounts: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. These charges arose from suspicions, which when investigated held credibly, that the president had frozen vital military aid to Ukraine and tantalized the Ukrainian president with a proposed White House visit until the Ukrainian government publicly announced an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has always been tactical in commanding the Democratic Party and managing its approval with the public, has been exceedingly careful with regards to impeachment due to fear of losing the House majority.
Impeachment is never popular with the public, and furthering impeachment proceedings may very well cause moderate Democratic legislators to lose their seats. But precedent is extremely important. Any opposition party that does not impeach and allows the president to act with impunity and establishes this precedent is not a party deserving of the House majority.
The whole affair began with a whistleblower complaint alleging the president withheld aid only to call the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and push for an investigation into the Bidens. The reprehensible behavior from Republican operatives started right then at that impetus, who ever since have leaked the whistleblower’s name all over Twitter.
Following the whistleblower complaint, Speaker Pelosi launched an official impeachment inquiry. The White House then released a summarized memo of the president’s call with Zelensky, which contained the now infamous line from Trump to Zelensky, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.”
The partisan discordance was astounding: Liberals reading the transcript saw it as proof straight from the horse’s mouth while conservatives saw it as vindication of the president. Regardless, according to the transcript, Trump does bring up the Bidens, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who Joe Biden had removed, and a backchannel with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. It is difficult to argue the transcript does not warrant further investigation into the matter.
The White House and its allies immediately ran to the defense of the president. The main defenses were unconvincing.
There was “no pressure,” the Ukrainian president said. There is clearly a political benefit to Zelensky to say this and maintain a good relationship with Trump, who has already once withheld crucial military support. Then, the administration said “aid was released,” but it was curiously released once House Democrats were made aware it had not been granted.
Common phrases employed by Trump’s supporters are “read the transcript” and “the president was impeached over a phone call,” but even if the contents of the transcript did not allude to the abuses the president is accused of, the Congressional inquiry revealed the alleged abuse to extend far beyond one inappropriate phone call.
The most compelling witnesses were honorable State Department officials who attested there had been a months long pressure-campaign exerted by Trump, Giuliani and European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland (who testified he presumed a quid-pro-quo) to coerce Ukraine into investigating the Bidens.
Another witness included Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, someone present for Trump’s infamous phone call, who ascertained the improper nature of Trump’s request. Trump’s allies did not counter any of these witnesses by poking holes in their accounts, but by character assassination and personal slander, some even going so far as to question Lieutenant Colonel Vindman’s allegiances, given his Ukrainian background.
Even after Trump’s acquittal, some Republicans who voted to acquit acknowledge the president did what he is impeached for but stating they feel uncomfortable voting to remove a U.S. president, which has never been done.
There are some that suggest the president’s actions were simply targeting corruption. Senator Romney said it best after the president stood on the White House lawn and asked China to investigate the Bidens: “When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated.”
Andrew is a sophomore in LAS.