by TOMMY PUGH and SOPHIE GORECKI - Everything you need to know about the current impeachment inquiry and why it is important.
The United States is under political tension at the moment. And no, it’s not about the fuzzy fabulous fruit. The current impeachment inquiry is a confusing and novel process. The most recent impeachment was that of Bill Clinton in 1998, and before that, Andrew Johnson in 1868; Nixon’s in 1974 is a whole different story (Pascus). There have only been two formal impeachments to ever go through, so this is unusual. This rarity makes it a sensational political drama, and media outlets from all around can’t help but report it. The process is still confusing, and it’s important to first have a strong understanding of the process before diving into this impeachment inquiry’s specifics.
There is one thing to make clear before delving into the mysterious process of impeachment: An impeachment inquiry is not the same thing as removal from office. A president will not be kicked to the curb following a pending impeachment; rather, the president will have to go on trial if he or she faces an impeachment (Pascus). After the House of Representatives investigates the president’s actions in an inquiry, there is a vote on the indictment of the president called a proceeding. Following the proceeding, a president will be put on trial in front of senators, and if that goes through, then and only then will the president be removed from office. This is a major source of confusion for people attempting to understand the scenario, as the gravity of impeachment often weighs down without a fundamental description.
Furthermore, President Trump is not impeached yet. Recently, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, announced an impeachment inquiry, which means the government will formally be investigating President Trump (Montanaro and Davis). Following the subsequent results of this inquiry, the House of Representatives will then finally vote whether or not to impeach the president.
So what exactly is going on? At the moment, investigators are trying to determine if President Trump abused his power. How did this begin? It all started with a whistleblower report, a formal report from inside of an organization (in this case, the US government) announcing an undercover fraud. This whistleblower report sparked a serious concern for citizens regarding the integrity of the president, and since then, the House of Representatives has fallen into disagreement. With the investigations occurring in real time , the House of Representatives is trying to see if this concern is valid. Impeachable offenses include treason, bribery or any other felony or misdemeanor. In order for an impeachment to take place, it must be proven that the president degraded his or her position in office (Inskeep).
The whistleblower report called attention to a situation between Ukraine and the United States, claiming that President Trump was bargaining with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Earlier in the year, the US government arranged to send over 400 million dollars of financial aid to Ukraine. All of the paperwork was signed, and the money was ready to go; however, the president never officially signed the papers and the money was not sent yet. Flash forward to a phone call between Trump and Zelensky. Both of them discuss the situations of their country, and later in the call, Trump asks for dirt on his 2020 political opponent, Joe Biden. Trump previously claimed a prosecutor was fired by Biden because he “was after” Biden’s son for his alleged corrupt business practices (Braun and Berry). This, while highly controversial, is not illegal by itself. What is illegal is that President Trump allegedly threatened to withhold 400 million dollars of aid if Zelensky didn’t help him find information on Biden to use against him in the 2020 presidential election (Montanaro and Davis). This quid pro quo, or help in exchange for benefits, is where the true concern rears its ugly head.
The phone call transcripts were later released to the public, and the investigation continues. While some Republicans argue that Trump’s phone call was not linked to the 400 million dollar deal (which has now made its way to Ukraine at this point in time), others are still uncomfortable with the stipulations of the conversation. The phone conversation itself was never a secret, and Trump had previously announced his intentions in the phone call, but when the impeachment trial is held, the House of Representatives will bring the case, while the Senate will act as a jury and decide the final verdict as to whether the money was involved (Inskeep).
The true power of the inquiry and impeachment stems from the precedent it sets. “It’s not a question of reasonable doubt or even whether a crime has been committed, but rather about a kind of abuse of power,” Constitutional expert and Brown University political science professor Corey Brettschneider said (Inskeep). If the Senate rules that the president is innocent, it shows future presidents that asking for sensitive political information from foreign powers is lawful, and other presidents also have that power. If President Trump were to be removed from office, however, Congress would have to demonstrate that conversations such as quid pro quos should be unconstitutional. In any case, an impeachment is a turning point in policy, especially regarding presidential power and how he utilizes it. "I think it's ridiculous,” President Trump said. “It's a witch hunt" (Montanaro and Davis). It sets certain standards for the president, even if he says otherwise.
That was a lot to digest. In its most basic form, here’s the process:
The president commits a crime.
A report or person notifies the public of the situation.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives decides the situation is concerning.
The Speaker of the House announces a formal impeachment inquiry, which investigates the president’s actions.
Following the months-long inquiry, the impeachment is voted on by the House of Representatives, passing with a simple majority.
If the impeachment goes through, the president is put on trial in front of the Senate.
If the Senate gets more than two thirds of the votes against the president, he is removed from office.
That being said, the president is objectively likely to be impeached. The House of Representatives is controlled by the Democratic party, and most of them are in favor of impeachment, meaning they will likely get the majority vote. On the flip side, in the Senate, Republicans have the majority by three people, so in order to get 67 votes out of 100 for removal from office, twenty Republicans would have to vote contrary to their party (Pascus). The evidence has yet to come fully to light, so there is still time for the outcome to vary.
So what about peaches? The current impeachment inquiry is a confusing process, but there are certain elements that make it predictable. The background surrounding the impeachment is highly controversial, but through the inquiry, the US will know if President Trump has committed any high crimes. It is a fascinating and rare process, so following it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and understanding it is even more imperative.