The Chakrubs Current 014: Impeachment
In this month’s issue of The Current, we dive into the recent investigation to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump. We know that this can be a confusing topic and the vast amount of news available can make it difficult to know which information is true or false.
That’s why we’ve rounded up all of the facts, including the process for impeachment as laid out by the U.S. Constitution, the history of impeachment in the United States, and the latest updates regarding Trump’s impeachment inquiry. We’ve also included tips for getting involved as well as self-care practices to help you stay afloat while remaining current.
In late September, the House of Representatives initiated an impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump, a sitting president for the fourth time in U.S. history. Prior to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launching the inquiry and setting investigations into motion, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines on September 12 to formally begin an impeachment inquiry.
The impeachment inquiry came after it was revealed in a whistleblower complaint (and verified by telephone transcripts) that Donald Trump abused his power as President by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the business ties of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son in exchange for federal military aid that had previously been withheld. It’s assumed that the President proposed this quid pro quo, or exchange of services, so that he could leverage compromising information against Democratic Presidential candidate for his own political gain in the 2020 elections.
What is the process to impeachment?
Impeachment refers to a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to charge a high-ranking government official with misconduct and begin the process of removing him or her from office. Different types of officials can be impeached, and historically the majority of impeachment proceedings (15 out of 19) have been lobbied at federal judges.
The Constitution dictates that a president may be impeached and removed over charges such as “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Trump’s detractors allege that bargaining with a foreign government to extract information on a political opponent qualifies as bribery. Others point to the separate investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election as reason to begin an impeachment inquiry.
According to the U.S. Constitution, in order to convict a sitting president, a majority vote to impeach must pass in the House followed by a two-thirds majority (or 67 Senators) vote in the Senate to convict and remove. What remains unclear is what constitutes an impeachable offense and how impeachment proceedings should be carried out.
Historically, the House has introduced impeachment inquiries into three presidents, but only two presidents have been charged with articles of impeachment. An impeachment inquiry is the investigation that precedes any vote in committee or on the House floor. Articles of impeachment describe the specific charges to be brought against the president.
Former presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both charged with articles of impeachment but acquitted by the Senate. Richard Nixon resigned before the House was able to charge him.
The Democratic lawmakers leading the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump have heard testimony from numerous senior government officials, but have yet to hear from the whistleblower who launched the probe.
Some lawmakers believe that testimony from the whistleblower might not be necessary, as testimony from other officials, Trump’s own statements, a collection of text exchanges between top U.S. diplomats, and other White House documents have largely substantiated the original complaint that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden.
Lawyers for the whistleblower have cited concern regarding their client’s safety and the possibility that testifying in person could expose their identity. They pointed to Trump’s previous statements calling the inquiry a sham and suggesting that the whistleblower committed treason as evidence towards their claim.
Thus far, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has opted not to hold a chamber-wide vote to authorise the impeachment inquiry, a move that is drawing criticism from the White House and Republicans. Holding a vote would grant Republican lawmakers additional powers, such as the ability to issue subpoenas for their own witnesses and schedule hearings.
Currently there are several Democrat-led House committees dedicated to investigating the president and finding evidence that supports impeachment. The White House has refused to cooperate.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allegedly told Senate Republicans that he expects Speaker Nancy Pelosi to approve articles of impeachment as early as Thanksgiving. Based on that date, McConnell concluded that the Senate could complete the trial by Christmas, thereby finishing impeachment proceedings before the Democratic presidential primaries begin. It’s assumed that Democrats also prefer a speedy trial that won’t interfere with the upcoming 2020 election.
On Thursday, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted on camera that the Trump administration withheld military aid to Ukraine as a way of pressuring the country to investigate its own interference in the 2016 elections and whether a Ukrainian-owned company stole a computer server from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to cover it up. Both of these theories have been debunked in the past, with Trump’s first homeland security adviser Tom Bossert even telling ABC News that aides repeatedly told the president that his views on Ukraine were wrong.
While Mulvaney’s confession qualifies as quid pro quo, it’s different than the whistleblower’s complaint related to the withholding of aid contingent upon investigating Joe Biden’s son, which would indicate that Donald Trump used his position as president for personal political gain.
What can you do? / Self-care
It can sometimes feel disempowering to read about the decisions and proceedings of politicians and lawmakers, without having much say over how they choose to move forward. Now is a good time to remind yourself what you do have control over and where you can enact change to help yourself and others. Perhaps it’s by campaigning on behalf of a presidential candidate you support, donating to a politician or cause you believe in, or volunteering your time. Reassure yourself that small actions add up to make a difference, especially when they’re done from a place of sincerity.
As always, keep good social media habits and monitor your use so that you don’t become overwhelmed by the news cycle. Subscribe to a few factual outlets that you trust and try to avoid click-bait articles. Make sure you read articles in full, double-check sources, and publishing dates before sharing news on your feeds.
References and further reading:
VOX: 9 things everyone should know about the impeachment process
NY Times: How the Impeachment Process Works
BBC News: Why won’t Democrats vote to authorise impeachment?
POLITICO: McConnel eyes quick impeachment trial in Senate
CNN: Here’s why Democrats aren’t holding an impeachment inquiry vote — yet
Reuters: One person is missing in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry: the whistleblower
VOX: The White House admits to a Ukraine quid pro quo. Just not that one.
NY Times: Trump Was Repeatedly Warned That Ukraine Conspiracy Theory Was ‘Completely Debunked’