Impeachment

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Impeachment

Caroline Korinke, Katie Frost, Alex Denofia, Staff Writer

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Past

Article II, Section IV of the Constitution states, “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Throughout history, only two American presidents have been impeached: the first being Andrew Johnson and the second being Bill Clinton. Neither of these men were removed from office for their crimes.

Andrew Johnson, seventeenth President of the United States and successor to Abraham Lincoln, was impeached in 1868 by the House of Representatives. The official statement of the White House was that Johnson was impeached because of his decision to remove the Secretary of War from office; violating the Tenure of Office Act. This act was written to keep the president from removing certain federal officials without approval from the Senate. After his impeachment, the Senate voted 35-19 in favor of his removal from office. This vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to remove Johnson from office, so he stayed president for the remainder of his term.

130 years later, in 1998, Bill Clinton became the second president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. The Bill of Rights Institute states that his crimes included perjury and obstruction of justice, both of which reference the infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal and trial. Both articles failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds vote in the Senate, so Clinton was never removed from office. He left office after the end of his second term in 2001.

Another infamous case of impeachment proceedings involves Richard Nixon: the only president to ever resign from office prematurely. Although Nixon was never formally impeached, he was thoroughly investigated by the House Judiciary Committee. The Cornell Law School says that three articles of impeachment were brought against him in relation to the Watergate scandal and the following cover-up. Before the House could vote on these articles, Nixon resigned from office. It is widely believed that he would have been impeached and removed from office had he not resigned.

President Trump is the fourth president in United States history to face a formal impeachment inquiry. AP English Language Teacher Ms. Bonnell, who has lived through the presidencies of both Nixon and Clinton, believes that Trump’s impeachment investigation will be very different. “The biggest difference now is Congress and the way it’s made up. You have a pool of Republicans that choose to isolate themselves, and the Democrats too. You have some extremes that weren’t there when the other two were on trial,” she said. The House of Representatives is currently controlled by Democrats and the Senate has a Republican majority. What could make this investigation and impeachment different is the partisan divide between liberal and conservative extremes. Art Teacher Ms. Friedrich says that she remembers when Nixon resigned when she was a teenager. She says, “With Nixon, they were asking ‘What did he know and when did he know it’. With Trump, it’s more like ‘What did he lie about and when did he lie about it.’”

The United States has a short but very prominent history of impeachment. The scandals and trials that surround sitting presidents can create political divides that last for years. Looking at past impeachments, taking into account the lengthy process that can result in impeachment or removal from office, can help put President Trump’s impeachment proceedings into context.

 

 

Present

Before a U.S. president can be impeached, the majority of the House of Representatives must vote that the cases of listed allegations are strong enough to warrant a trial, which is overseen by the Chief Justice with the Senate as the jury. According to the Constitution, “A president …shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” If the House of Representatives rules to have a trial and the Senate has a two-thirds majority verdict finding the president guilty, they would be removed from office. 

The National Public Radio reports that the topic of impeachment arose on August 12, when a whistleblower brought forth allegations that President Trump called the Ukrainian president to urge him to investigate Joe Biden’s son. The whistleblower claims, “to have discovered the events from U.S. Government officials.” Joe Biden is a Democratic Candidate in the 2020 election who is running against President Trump for office. His son, Hunter Biden, has a company in Ukraine, which is the company that Trump had allegedly requested Ukraine to investigate. According to The Washington Post, the case began when, “Trump withheld $400 million dollars in foreign aid from Ukraine a week before his phone call with Zelensky.” The allegations for the impeachment inquiry were that Trump had abused his presidential power by withholding the foreign aid from Ukraine to urge them to investigate his political opponent, Joe Biden, in order to gain an advantage in the 2020 election. Sophomore Alba Mendis said, “Trump should be prosecuted if he committed a crime, but that it is not worth it because the elections are only in one year.” The question the inquiry seeks to answer is whether there is a connection between President Trump freezing the aid money for Ukraine and his phone call allegedly requesting the investigation. 

On the potential connection between the frozen aid money, Ukrainian President Zelensky stated in a Fox News article on September 25th, “Nobody pushed me.” Fox News stated that Trump did request the investigation of Biden on the call, but there was not enough evidence to connect the withheld foreign aid and the request to investigate. Sophomore Givey Gartzke said, “The impeachment inquiry is a good thing because people in power should be questioned and the fact that the country has the ability to prosecute people in authority reflects well on the strength of the government justice system.” President Trump said on Political Wire that his rationale for withholding the foreign aid was, “rooting out corruption and because other European countries were not sufficiently participating in giving foreign aid as well.” 

According to CNN, “On Thursday October 31, the House of Representatives approved a resolution to formalize the procedures of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.” The Democrat-controlled House voted on the resolution, formally moving the inquiry forward. Additionally, the phone call transcript between President Trump and Ukrainain President Zelensky was made public on September 25, according to NPR. 

The vote to begin the inquiry happens before the House votes on articles of impeachment. In other words, the committees are currently investigating accusations for whether they can be deemed impeachable before the investigation goes to the Judiciary Committee.

 

Future:

The ongoing debate surrounding President Donald Trump’s impeachment has thrown politics into chaos. Many people argue that Trump is unfit to govern and that the US Government needs to return to the political policies that he has removed. Others believe that Trump’s actions do not measure as “impeachable” and that his policies have had a positive impact on society. The result of this debate will have lasting effects on American society. 

Donald Trump won the election of 2016 as the 45th President of the United States  against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Although he did not win the popular vote, he received 304 electoral votes, while Clinton only had 227. Trump’s impeachment was called into question when he asked the President of Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden. There is suspicion that Trump may have pressured the President of Ukraine by offering military aid and covered up his communications for personal gain.

A question that people ask themselves is: What would the future look like if Trump was impeached? AP US Government Teacher Mr. Cavaiola said, “The domestic implications of having a sitting U.S President impeached would act as a form of public disgrace. What message does impeaching ‘the leader of the free world’ send to democracies worldwide?” AP European History Teacher Mr. Atwell said, “Society would be thrown into chaos and there would be much needed stability.” The impeachment of a president would also result in disorder because citizens would have to undergo a change in leadership. As seen throughout history, stability is an important factor in government. 

The idea of Trump not being impeached is supported by people who agree with his policies. According to Harper’s Magazine, many people support his policies of engagement, which allows the United States to avoid involvement in foreign conflicts. By not impeaching President Trump, the United States would continue to stay uninvolved in foreign conflicts. His supporters believe that if he continues his presidency, his policies will help improve and advance the country. However, some believe that with the continuation of Trump’s foreign policies, the country may eventually be driven to war. They think the conflicts he has caused in the beginning of his presidency could only grow and create larger issues.

 If Trump’s impeachment is rejected by authorities, the general population may still feel a sense of distrust towards him due to recent crime accusations. Distrust in the president could result in future conflict. On the other hand, by allowing Trump to continue his presidency, chaos within politics could be avoided. The United States would continue to have a leader and there would be no change in leadership.