Democrats to Move Forward With Impeachment of President Trump
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Author: Olivia Branan
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) announced Dec. 5 that House Democrats would begin drafting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, the next step in a process that technically began when Pelosi announced an Impeachment Inquiry in September.
The House Intelligence committee investigated whether Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting with Ukraine in exchange for the announcement of an investigation into an energy company whose board included Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden. Joe Biden is currently a frontrunner in the Democratic Presidential primary, making him a likely candidate to be Trump’s opponent in the 2020 election.
Impeachment is Congress’s ultimate check on presidential power. The process begins with the House, where a simple majority is needed in order to hold a trial. In order to be removed from office, the president must be convicted by the Senate with a two-thirds majority.
Only two U.S. presidents, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868, have been impeached, but neither was convicted. Richard Nixon came closest to being removed but resigned before he could be convicted for the Watergate scandal.
The current process began with a whistleblower report alleging that Trump had sought assistance with reelection in 2020 from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. After the inspector general made the report public, the White House shared an edited transcript of a phone call between Trump and Zelensky.
Trump asked for Zelensky to announce a formal investigation into Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company whose board included Hunter Biden. This came after several Ukraine officials alleged in March that, during his tenure as vice president, Joe Biden pushed to have Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin fired to prevent a criminal probe into Burisma.
Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee for two weeks, state department officials claimed that Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of Congressionally-appropriated military aid to Ukraine as leverage along with a potential White House meeting with Zelensky.
In August of 2019, White House officials, including Former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, allegedly sought a political exchange on Trump’s behalf: the Ukrainian government would publicly announce an investigation into Burisma, as Trump requested, and in exchange, he would lift the hold on military aid, and Zelensky would be granted a meeting with the White House.
A major element in the impeachment is the claim that President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani created a diplomatic backchannel to conduct foreign policy with Ukraine. In October, Giulianai’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both Ukrainians, were arrested for illegally contributing to political campaigns in exchange for influence. They have been linked to Giuliani’s attempts to gather damaging information on Hunter Biden by reportedly introducing him to several Ukrainian officials to discuss Shokin’s dismissal.
Trump has called the inquiry a “witch hunt” and denies using military aid as a point of negotiation. Zelensky came to his defense, stating that he felt no pressure from Trump was unaware that aid was temporarily withheld.
Following weeks of closed-door testimony and two weeks of public testimony, Pelosi announced plans to issue articles of impeachment. In a press conference, Pelosi stated that “the president has engaged in abuse of power undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections.”
According to analysts, it is highly likely that both chambers will vote along party lines, with the Democratic-controlled Houses approving articles of impeachment, but the Republican-controlled Senate not convicting Trump.