What initially began as a secretive whistleblower complaint has now parlayed into a fierce debate over what exactly should be constitutional behaviour for a US President, an ongoing investigation set to determine the fate of the country, and undoubtedly, one of the most monumental moments in American history. To decipher the flurry of all things impeachment related likely bombarding your news feed, a team of Affinity writers is breaking down the inquiry, one question at a time.
How does the impeachment process work?
Impeachment does not mean removal from office. Impeachment is, however, a necessary step to remove a President from office. Currently, House committees are still investigating President Trump, but if they determine that his actions justify articles of impeachment, the House will hold a floor vote to impeach. If a majority (218 representatives) vote “yay”, Trump will be impeached. The articles of impeachment would then move to the Senate, which would decide whether to remove Trump from office. A trial would be held, and afterwards, a floor vote would be held to convict. If two-thirds (66 senators) vote to convict, Trump would be removed from office, and Mike Pence would assume the presidency.
The Constitution is notoriously vague on the actions of a President that could justify impeachment, saying only that a President can be impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” In one of the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton elaborated that impeachable offenses were “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They… relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” In other words, he believed that a President should only be impeached for abuses of power that damaged society.
Due to the involvement of both houses of Congress and the broad language of the Constitution, no President has ever been both impeached and removed. only two Presidents have ever been impeached, and neither was removed from office.
Andrew Johnson replaced the Secretary of War without the Senate’s approval, which his opponents said violated the Tenure of Office Act. Johnson was later acquitted by one vote in the Senate. Bill Clinton was found guilty of perjury after he lied under oath about an affair with Monica Lewinsky. The Senate acquitted him because many Senators felt that his actions were not severe enough to constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors”—and because Clinton’s approval ratings were still quite high. Impeachment and removal of Trump depend less on his actual crimes than on who controls the houses of Congress, as well as the willingness of Republicans to denounce a President that their constituents voted into office.
How are Ukraine and Joe Biden involved?
By Joanna Hou
The primary issue in question has been Trump’s accusations towards potential presidential candidate Joe Biden’s involvement in tampering with the Ukrainian government. Trump’s smear campaign revolves around Joe Biden’s involvement in firing Viktor Shokin, then Ukraine’s top prosecutor.
Trump’s accusation is that Biden was able to strong-arm the Ukraine government to fire Viktor Shokin. Trump claims that at the time, Shokin was busy investigating a natural gas company called Burisma, where Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, sat on the board of directors. By removing Shokin from his position, Joe Biden would be able to halt the investigation against his son.
It turns out that Joe Biden was in Ukraine to halt Shokin, but not for the reasons Trump has proposed. Although Hunter Biden has been working with a Ukrainian company for quite some time, Biden has said that “I don’t tell my grown son what he can do, as long as whatever he’s doing is appropriate.” Biden’s son had already been based in Ukraine for some time with little to no trouble there.
Donald Trump pressured Ukraine to manufacture a smear against a domestic political opponent — the “transcript” made that clear. It’s an abuse of power that violates the oath of office and undermines our democracy.
Congress must hold him accountable.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 26, 2019
So why was Biden truly in Ukraine? It turns out that Viktor Shokin, the former top prosecutor, was actually displaced from his position because he tried to bury many cases of corruption. In fact, one of the cases that Joe Biden accused Shokin of being too gentle with was Burisma. According to multiple authorities from several countries, Shokin ignored several cases of corruption within Ukraine, Mykola Zlochevskiy, the owner of Burisma, had been called into investigation months before, but Shokin fully ignored all the corruption Zlochevskiy committed (money laundering, among other things.)
It took Joe Biden’s pressure for the Ukrainian government to finally fire Shokin. Kaleniuk told USA Today, ” no one would have cared [to fire Shokin] if there had not been voices from outside this country calling on him to go.” As it turns out, Joe Biden worked against his son, trying to counter corruption in Ukraine.
This scandal comes in the wake of President Trump ostensibly pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open an investigation against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden as part of a political strategy. His phone call to Zelenskiy, in which he compelled the leader to do him “a favour” and openly announce the inquiry into Biden and implied that over 300 billion dollars of military aid would be withheld otherwise, has compelled many Democrats, and even some Republicans, to vouch for his impeachment.
The rationale behind this is that the President had abused his executive powers to manipulate foreign policy for his own personal gain, evident in his attempt to essentially blackmail a foreign power in order to put a prominent political opponent at a disadvantage, or even subject him to criminal charges. It is, however, still subject to debate whether this transgression can be interpreted as “high crimes and misdemeanours”, or a impeachable offence under the constitution.
How has the impeachment inquiry fared in terms of its progress and response?
By Tina Yong
Since the impeachment inquiry was initially launched by Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Trump appears to be more emboldened than ever, despite being roiled in possibly the most serious charge that could be levied against a sitting President. Like much of his responses to other scandals, he has been deflective and unapologetic, tweeting most recently that the inquiry is the “Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of the USA” and coordinating with his legal team to vigorously deny accusations of abuse of power. He was even audacious enough to publicly invite China to also launch an investigation against his fiercest political rival after having just been accused of abusing his powers to establish such a deal with another foreign power.
The Greatest Witch Hunt in the history of our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2019
Not only has Trump expressed great outrage over the impeachment inquiry, his administration has conducted a concerted effort to inhibit its progress, including refusing to turn over key internal documents to House Democrats and attempting to block the US ambassador to the E.U. from testifying. The administration cited concerns of the impeachment effort taking on the form of an illegitimate partisan fight intended to reverse the outcome of the 2016 election, which resulted in sharp rebuke from the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Adam Schiff.
The White House says there is nothing wrong with pressuring a foreign government to intervene in a US election.
They say: they will not cooperate with an impeachment inquiry unless it’s on their terms.
They mean: the President is above the law.
The Constitution says otherwise. https://t.co/fstH1bGT4Y
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) October 8, 2019
Despite considerable impediments, the Democrats’ investigation was granted much legitimacy last week, when a federal judge ruled that the impeachment inquiry is legally justified, dealing a huge blow to President Trump, who has been postulating quite the opposite. Key testimonies have occurred, with directly implicated figures speaking out on their version of events, such as Kurt Volker, the former Ukraine envoy, Laura Cooper, top Pentagon official in Ukraine, and Bill Taylor, acting US ambassador to Ukraine. Much of the testimony has corroborated the initial complaint in confirming that there was a quid pro quo scenario, in which military aid was promised in exchange for the Ukrainian president capitulating to Trump’s request for an investigation into the Bidens.
Testimonies are set to continue, with former National Security Advisor, John Bolton, and Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, set to testify in the coming weeks. The next step, set to be voted on in the House, would be a passing a resolution which authorizes the House Intelligence Committee to hold public hearings in which witnesses can be called, along with determining other conditions of such hearings.
However, impeachment is still in its formative stages right now, with investigation — not punishment — of wrongdoing being the primary focus. If and when the President is impeached by the House by a vote, the trial portion of the process would commence, subjecting the fate of Trump’s presidency to a Republican-controlled Senate. For now, however, it appears that all there is to do is to listen closely, and wait.