Everything You Need to Know About Impeachment

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Everything You Need to Know About Impeachment

President Donald Trump walks on stage as Vice President Mike Pence applauds.

President Donald Trump walks on stage as Vice President Mike Pence applauds.

Photo By History in HD

President Donald Trump walks on stage as Vice President Mike Pence applauds.

Photo By History in HD

Photo By History in HD

President Donald Trump walks on stage as Vice President Mike Pence applauds.

By Jake Schlanger, Reporter

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The impeachment proceedings against President Donald J. Trump (R) have been front page news over the last couple months.The catalyst of the inquiry was the leak of notes about a call between Trump and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky by an anonymous whistleblower. The allegations raised against Trump include the use of a foreign government to solicit information to undermine a political opponent. Soon after the leak, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the opening of impeachment proceedings on Sept. 24. The decision, which Pelosi had avoided making until then, came after years of pressure from the House Democratic Caucus. At the time, over two thirds of the House Democrats supported impeachment.

After Pelosi announced the beginning of the impeachment of Trump, Democrats got to work. Although the United States Constitution is vague on the process of impeachment, only saying that a simple majority (50% plus one) is needed in the House to impeach the President, a procedure has been created during the three past presidential impeachment inquiries

The first step in the inquiry was to begin investigating Trump. This was done by six different committees, with the House Intelligence Committee designated as the lead. The other committees were the House Judiciary, charged with voting on whether to send articles of impeachment to the full house, Oversight and Reform, Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, and Ways and Means committees. Each of these committees is responsible for investigating the charges brought against Trump that pertain to their areas of expertise.

The next step for the impeachment inquiry was to pass the rules that would govern the proceedings. The rules set up a procedure for the inquiry, and lays out which committees will do what. It also states the powers allocated to each committee. The rules are contained in HR 660, which passed the House with 232 representatives voting in favor and 192 voting against.

The resolution gives the six committees involved in the inquiry subpoena power of individuals and documents. It also designates the Judiciary committee with the authority on whether or not to send the articles of impeachment to the full House. The rules also lay out the procedure to be used when witnesses testify, stating that the chair and ranking member of a committee may each question the witness for an equal amount of time over five minutes. It also states that the testimony of each witness will be kept to a total of 90 minutes per hearing.

After the resolution passed, the next stage of the inquiry began. The six committees named in HR 660 began to subpoena documents and individuals to testify in the inquiry. Some of the individuals who have testified include Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman who served as the Director of European Affairs for the US National Security Council, former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, and Gordon Sondland.

The subpoenas and testimony of various government officials and Trump associate is part of an effort to demonstrate that Trump committed impeachable offences while in office. The primary offences being investigated is Trump asking Zelensky to investigate 2020 election rival Joe Biden (D). If events unfolded in the manner Democrats allege, it is very likely to be labeled as bribery, arguably an impeachable offence. There are no limits to what the committees may investigate, however it is possible that the articles of impeachment may include other offences.

The graphic gives an overview of the different impeachment committees and their responsibilities.

 

The timeline of events during the lead up to the impeachment inquiry began with an interview with Trump by The Associated Press. During the interview Trump brought up the possibility of Ukraine interfering with the 2016 election on April 21, 2017. 

The next major event occurred almost two years later in late 2018 when Rudy Guilliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, participated in a Skype call with then top Ukranian prosecutor Viktor Shokin. It was one of many calls that Guilliani made while he was looking for information that would back up an allegation of a conspiracy between the Biden family and Ukraine. There is currently no evidence of such a conspiracy. Guilliani says his investigation into the Bidens truly began in January of this year, with a meeting with the new top Ukraine prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, in New York.

On April 21, Ukraine elected Zelensky as the new president and Trump called him to congratulate him on his win. A few weeks later in May, former ambassador Yovanovitch ended her assignment in Ukraine. The whistleblower report alleges that this was at the direction of Trump. Later that month, Trump invited Zelensky to the White House. 

Then, in mid June, the Department of Defense (DoD) said that 250 million dollars in funds would be given to Ukraine for “additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts to build the capacity of Ukraine’s armed forces.”

On July 25, Trump spoke to Zelensky over the phone. It was during the call that Trump asked the Ukranian president to investigate the Bidens, leading some people to believe that Trump engaged in a quid pro quo when he suggested that US aid might be conditional on Zelensky’s cooperation. After the call, the administration announced that it would be withholding the DoD funds from Ukraine.

Many House Democrats believe that by asking Zelensky to investigate Biden, Trump was attempting to influence the 2020 elections. If true, this would mean that Trump broke federal law, as it is illegal for foriegn powers to influence U.S. elections. House Republicans refute this claim, saying that what Trump engaged in didn’t amount to asking a foriegn power to tamper with U.S. elections. 

It does remain an uphill battle for Democrats however, as they will need to get the public’s opinion on their side. Recent polls show that they are succeeding in this, although it is taking time. Otherwise, impeaching Trump could result in public backlash which could threaten their majority in the House.

While Democrats may have the numbers in the House to impeach Trump, they will also face a difficult time formally convicting the President in a Republican dominated Senate. In order to reach the 66 votes to remove Trump from office, 19 Republicans will need to vote to convict. Democrats also need to worry about public opinion. If voters don’t support impeachment in large enough numbers, Democrats’ majority in the House could be at risk in 2020. Right now, many Republicans in the House and Senate oppose impeachment. This includes Rep. John Carter (R-TX) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) who both represent areas zoned for Westwood.

“I will not vote to continue this investigation on the exact same path it’s gone down for the last month. It’s time for this craziness to end and for the House to get back to doing the people’s work,” Carter said in a press release.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is also staunchly opposed the impeachment inquiry. He explained his position on the hearings and HR 660 in an interview on the Ben Shapiro Show, a conservative talk show.

“It is a propaganda trial where House Democrats will only listen to testimony they believe supports their narrative and they don’t allow the defense to present any facts on the other side,” Cruz said in the interview. “I think any proceeding in the Senate should be fair, should be open, and should respect due process. That means allowing both sides to present their case and if the White House chooses to call as a witness Hunter Biden… I think they should be allowed to call [him].”

Cruz might get the chance to implement his vision for the Senate trial. Two articles of impeachment have been drawn up charging Trump with Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress and are being sent to the full House for a vote. The vote is scheduled for next Wednesday.