By Eduardo Andrade, Managing Editor
President Donald Trump is the subject of impeachment inquiries as of Sept. 24. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi initiated these inquiries after allegations that Trump had pressured the leaders of other countries in order to advance his personal and political interests. Trump has reportedly asked the leaders of several countries, including China, Australia, Italy, Britain and most notably Ukraine to investigate Robert Mueller, Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and possible Ukranian and Russian interference in the 2016 election. The investigation into Trump has largely focused on his actions with Ukrainian officials, including the recently elected President Volodymyr Zelensky, largely due to a whistleblower report which outlines how Trump allegedly “abuse(d) his office for personal gain.”
Of those who have publicly stated their position, House Republicans unanimously oppose impeachment inquiries while 225 of 235 house Democrats support them, with the sole House independent, a former Republican, supporting the inquiries.
Impeachment proceedings are a necessary first step in determining whether or not Trump engaged in impeachable offences and Pelosi made the correct decision in initiating these proceedings.
The evidence against Trump is damning and warrants further investigation. While asking foreign leaders to investigate political rivals in itself is questionable, offering aid in return is impeachable.
US foreign aid in Ukraine dropped from $194 million in 2017 to an estimated $122 million in 2019. In his phone call with the Ukranian president, Trump asks for investigations into the Bidens after saying the US’s support of Ukraine has not been reciprocated, which while it is not an explicit quid pro quo offer, it does merit further investigation in the larger context of the situation. Even more concerning, leaked text messages indicate that Ukranian and American officials were wary of Trump’s intentions with Ukraine and believe Trump was threatening to withhold funds and military support if the President did not meet his requests.
In a text Bill Taylor, head of the American embassy in Ukraine, relays to other officials that Ukranian finance minister Sasha Danyliuk said, “(Ukranian) President Zelenskyy is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely an instrument in Washington domestic, reelection politics.” In a separate series of texts, Kurt Volker, at the time the US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, says the US will not schedule a White House visit for the Ukranian president unless he “convinces trump he will investigate/’get to the bottom of what happened.’” In another text, Taylor says to Gordon Sondland, US Ambassador to the European Union, the President is withholding “security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Both presidents have denied that a quid pro quo was offered, and Sondland responded to Taylor’s texts saying Taylor was “incorrect about President Trump’s intentions” and that the president was clear about their being no quid pro quo. However, these texts provide strong evidence that Trump gave incentives for the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden and possible Ukrainian and Russian interference in the 2016 election in favor of the DNC is cause to begin the impeachment inquiries into him.
Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giulianni has made unsubstantiated claims bordering on slander about Joe Biden and his involvement in Ukraine politics, claiming he had former Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor Shokin removed to help his sons business dealings as a board member of the Burisma Group, a natural gas company based in Cyprus and with many dealings in Ukraine. However, investigations into the Burisma Group began before Shokin became Prosecutor General and Shokin’s resignation came over a year after the investigation had ended. Former Ukranian prosecutors and current Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko have both said that Biden had nothing to do with closing the investigation.
Republicans are criticizing the probe, saying it is unconstitutional as the impeachment inquiry began without a vote by the house. This is untrue, while in the past impeachment inquiries have begun this way, the Speaker of the House can launch an impeachment inquiry without a full House vote.
While it is not needed to launch the inquiry, a House vote would likely give Republicans the right to subpoena witnesses and information and give some power to the minority party in the investigations. A House vote should be held on the inquiry as it would ensure a more fair investigation and provide transparency and legitimacy into the proceedings.
The President has claimed that the American people do not support the impeachment inquiry and cited this as a reason to not move forward with the proceedings. However, 51% of registered voters polled believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office and another 4% say he should be impeached but not removed from office and 43% say the call to Ukraines president alone was an impeachable offence.
An impeachment inquiry is a far cry from removing Trump from office. For Trump to be removed, after their investigation, a majority of the House Judiciary Committee would have to vote in favor of opening the vote to the entire House. Then a majority of the House would have to vote to formally impeach Trump, sending the vote to the Senate. There, the Senate would launch a trial investigating the President. After the trial, two-thirds of the Senate would need to vote in favor of impeaching Trump for him to finally be removed from office.
More evidence needs to come to light in order to impeach Trump for offering a quid pro quo, however sufficient evidence has been brought up to justify an impeachment inquiry. Pelosi and the House Democrats should hold a House vote on the inquiry in order to make the proceedings more fair and to make sure the investigation continues as honestly as possible.
Posted: Oct. 10