BIPP: Impeachment: a polarizing process

Harry Morris, BIPP Intern

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A recent poll conducted by YouGov shows that a majority of Americans approve of the recent impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump. But when taken into account political persuasion, it is clear that the nation is still divided. Democrats overwhelmingly approve of the inquiry, while about half of Republicans disapprove; Independents are split 51 percent to 49 percent, with a thin majority approving. Impeachment of a president is ideally a nonpartisan process in which a president is investigated for wrongdoing, so why is this inquiry so divisive?

Efforts to impeach Trump have been ongoing throughout his presidency. The issue that sparked this official inquiry is a complex controversy — involving a Ukrainian energy company, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden — which came to the public’s attention this past month. On Aug. 12, an unnamed Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer submitted a complaint to Inspector General Michael Atkinson. The whistleblower’s complaint detailed a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump repeatedly asked Zelensky to investigate the actions of both former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who was then serving on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings. The subject of Trump’s suspicion was the Obama administration’s 2016 decision to withhold federal aid from Ukraine until it fired Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Shokin claimed that this pressure — and his eventual firing — was due to his investigation of Hunter Biden as a suspect in a case against Burisma. The whistleblower complaint also listed Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as a “central figure” who served as a liaison between Ukrainian officials and Trump.

The complaint was found to be credible and was sent to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. Maguire withheld the document from Congress despite an obligation to submit it before a deadline on Sept. 2. The document has since been reported on first by the Washington Post and then was released as declassified on Sept. 26. On Sept. 24, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives would begin. A rough transcript of the phone call has since been released and confirmed that Trump asked Zelensky to “look into” Biden and his son.

Considering that officials and the so-called “transcript” itself corroborate the whistleblower’s complaints, the division of opinion over the impeachment inquiry seems to stem from whether one believes President Trump’s actions were under the qualifications set forth by the Constitution to justify impeachment. The Constitution says that the President “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” It is now the onus of the House, then the Senate, to determine whether Trump’s phone call and alleged cover-up fall under those details. Only two presidents have ever been impeached, and none removed from office. Only time will tell if this inquiry will lead to the third impeachment in American history.

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