Editorial: Breaking down the costs and effects of the building impeachment momentum

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Just when calls by House Democrats to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump had subsided, news this week of Trump’s summer phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has brought new fuel to this fire.

A whistleblower claimed that Trump repeatedly pressed Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and son, Hunter Biden, by threatening to withhold aid to Ukraine. In 2016, the vice president pushed for the Ukraine to fire its general prosecutor, Viktor Shokin. Biden was not alone, as other western countries pushed for Shokin’s removal for failing to address corruption in the country. At the same time, Hunter Biden sat on the board of a Ukrainian company. Trump and Rudy Giuliani have suggested a narrative that Biden acted to protect his son from an investigation into the company. In this phone call, the whistleblower also claimed that Trump threatened to withhold aid to the Ukraine until Zelensky looked into Hunter Biden’s business dealings.

In response to these allegations, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced her approval of impeachment proceedings against the president. She cited Trump’s “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections” for her support of the motion. Pelosi’s stance is a distinct reversal from her earlier resistance to some Democrats’ calls for impeachment, which seemed to have lost momentum following special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony to Congress.

Democrats flipped control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections, in part, by campaigning as moderates, not by promising impeachment. However, with even some moderate Democrats changing their positions on the issue, Pelosi has now given impeachment her stamp of approval.

The Bucknellian acknowledges that impeachment proceedings would involve both moral and political consequences. Trump’s presidency has featured ample controversy that has drawn ire and calls for impeachment from the left, most notably his campaign’s ties to Russia and Mueller’s resulting investigation. To some, however, these calls might have seemed like Trump’s opponents grasping at straws searching for evidence to impeach, or a witch hunt at worst. 

It seems that Pelosi and House Democrats are prepared to pick a battle to place themselves on “the right side of history,” should the allegations against Trump be confirmed. At the same time, it is important to consider the political realities and ramifications of impeachment. While the Democratic majority in the House could vote to impeach the president, the Republican majority in the Senate would never consider convicting Trump. 

Moreover, such proceedings could effectively make impeachment an issue of the 2020 presidential campaign. Some might see impeachment as a good strategy for Democrats energizing their supporters, but it may be more likely that this attack would backfire on Democrats, energizing Trump’s base as much, if not more, than their own.

The Bucknellian will continue to follow this developing story but feels it is important to note the potential effects that could stem from this situation. Moreover, The Bucknellian recognizes that if Trump truly threatened withdrawal of foreign aid for a nation’s leader to dig up dirt on a political opponent, this presents a more credible case for impeachment than any previous actions. 

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