In response to a complaint filed by an anonymous whistle-blower Aug. 12, the Democratic Party launched a formal impeachment inquiry into the president’s actions Sept. 24, presenting the greatest challenge yet to his presidency, according to The Washington Post. The whistle-blower, an unnamed Central Intelligence Agency officer, alleged that Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani engaged in a months-long effort to press the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
“Trump is using the power of the federal government for his own personal political gain,” Advanced Placement Government and Politics teacher Dave Waterhouse said. “That is essentially what [the Democrats] were intending to punish with impeachment: sacrificing the national interest for personal gain. The argument there is that it was the national interest for the U.S. to support Ukraine, and he was using that and undermining our national interest by threatening to withhold back money just so he could get a political advantage.”
The whistleblower’s complaint focused on President Trump’s phone call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenksy on July 25, in which the two leaders first discussed Ukraine’s dependency on U.S. foreign aid and then transitioned to discuss the Biden family. White House officials removed the transcripts of the call, which were released to the public Sept. 26, from the regular electronic system and relocated them to servers intended for highly sensitive material, according to the New York Times.
This alleged cover-up adds to the numerous justifications the Democrats could use for impeachment, Waterhouse said.
“[The Democrats can cite] abuse of power for personal gain,” Waterhouse said. “They’re really excited about cover-up, though, because that’s obstruction of justice, and I think that’s probably the decisive thing that [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi latched onto because it sounds like the Watergate scandal. In the Constitution, it says that major offenses include treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. Essentially, this was bribery, since Trump offered U.S. money in exchange for political favor, so [the Democrats] can use that too.”
Emmanuel Zilber ’19, who is currently working for Democratic presidential candidate and California Senator Kamala Harris’s campaign, said he believes that the reason Democrats have decided to formally impeach now, as opposed to during the Russian investigation and Mueller report, is because the current controversy provides a more tangible case to be made for impeachment.
“Previously, Mueller distanced the findings of the report from directly accusing Trump, or the Trump Campaign from committing a crime,” Zilber said. “Now, with the whistleblower’s letter and the partial transcript released, there’s a much clearer case of criminal wrongdoing on the part of President Trump. Because this case seems to be more evident of a crime than the wide-reaching and broad Russian investigation, Democrats are able to lay out a definitive case of why there should, at the very least, be impeachment hearings.”
With the 2020 presidential elections approaching, the ongoing impeachment inquiry will discredit the Republican party while elevating the Democrats, Matthew Lee ’21 said.
“The whistleblower and the stuff that’s come out is pretty bad, and I think you can’t really ignore what we’ve seen with him trying to leverage America’s influence for his own personal gain over political opponents,” Lee said. “That’s the kind of thing that shouldn’t be accepted in a democracy and is more so a thing that is seen in a dictatorship. Trump has done a lot of intolerable things, and this is definitely up there with one of the worst things he’s done.”
Sabina Yampolsky ’20, however, said she is skeptical about the timing of the impeachment scandal due to the closely approaching presidential election.
“I think that the constantly-[evolving] attempt to impeach President Trump is just a tactic of the Democratic Party to decrease support for Trump as part of the long-standing tradition of political mudslinging, this time in the context of the upcoming presidential election,” Yampolsky said. “The Democrats continue to make baseless claims, as initially seen with the lack of evidence resulting from the Mueller investigation and now with their fixation on Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.”
Yampolsky also said she believes that Democrats need more sufficient evidence before jumping to conclusions.
“Although the impeachment claim accuses Trump of coercing a foreign power to aid in the investigation of a political opponent, there is no such inclination in the call transcript,” Yampolsky said. “Thus, I believe that the Democrats need to acquire more evidence before they can deliver any substantial accusation. However, I am largely convinced that this is purely a political strategy considering the upcoming election as well as the fact that Trump will most likely be out of office by the time any formal impeachment proceedings will be underway.”
Though the Democrats control the House of Representatives, Trump will likely not be convicted due to the Republican’s majority in the Senate, Waterhouse said.
“No matter how much the Republicans hate him personally, which I think many of them I think do, he delivered tax cuts, cut immigration, delivered supreme court justices, deregulated, all the things that they wanted him to do,” Waterhouse said. “They are grateful, and they’re not going to abandon him unless it looks like there’s nothing he can do for them. I don’t think many of Trump’s supporters will switch their views. There might be a slight erosion, there might be a few that finally decide this is enough, but there won’t be enough of a groundswell to force Republicans to convict Trump in an impeachment trial unless there is a bigger a groundswell of opposition to Trump than I expect, in which case some of the Republican leaders might decide it’s not good for the party to have him as their standard bearer anymore.”
Though Democrats hope impeaching Trump will lead to a decline in his popularity, it could pave the way for another, more popular Republican presidential candidate who may prove more difficult to defeat in 2020, Waterhouse said.
“I think they’re afraid of [new candidates] being Paul Ryan or someone like that,” Waterhouse said. “Even Mitt Romney would seem like such a breath of fresh air compared to Trump that he might be more capable of winning than Trump. So it is it’s a funny balancing act for the Democrats.”
However, whether or not Trump is impeached, remaining politically active is vital for our generation, Lee said.
“Get involved with a campaign,” Lee said. “Find someone you support, and go and help them because every volunteer, every voter counts. As we saw in 2016, everyone thought Clinton would beat Trump in a landslide so many of the Democrats didn’t turn out to vote. Obviously, I can’t speak for the whole country, but a lot of the people I know weren’t paying close attention and didn’t try to get involved, myself included. And Trump ended up winning. It shows that every little thing counts, every vote counts, everything you do to try and help a campaign will matter, because anything can happen in today’s politics.”