Impeachment: A public necessity
By Conor Kelly
Recently, the issue of Donald Trump’s impeachment has been at the center of public dialogue, especially with the rise of the Ukraine scandal looming over the Trump administration. While some desire to impeach Trump solely off the basis of his policy decisions, that is not the issue at hand in this particular article. Indeed, if misguided policy decisions were a basis for impeachment, James Buchanan would have been run out of office from the very beginning. Rather, it is my intention to show that not only is this impeachment a necessity for this scandal to be handled with appropriate care, but also to ensure that presidents–this one and those that come after him–shall not be granted a free pass when it comes to how they conduct themselves both domestically and in foreign affairs.
The Trump administration has been accused of using President Trump’s office and power over foreign affairs to withhold $400 million from the Ukrainians in aid–aid that Congress had explicitly ordered to be given to the Ukrainians to support their war against Russian separatists. This war is the result of Russian interference in Ukrainian territory, sending pro-Russian separatists into Crimea and trying to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty. The conflict has resulted in at least 13,000 deaths, as reported by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and is a major threat to the stability of Europe, hence the reason Congress sent aid to Ukraine to defend itself. In spite of this international urgency, Trump is alleged to have withheld aid to compel Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. In response to these accusations, Trump released a transcript of his call, hoping to get ahead of the scandal and to show a degree of transparency. Instead, the so-called transcript, while not a verbatim recording of what was said, was far more damning to the administration than Trump had predicted it to be. For one, Trump explicitly pressures Ukrainian President Zelenskiy to talk with his attorney general, William Barr, and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to discuss investigating Biden and his son’s business connections in Ukraine.
Those who wish to defend Trump will argue that it is legitimate to investigate any wrongdoing by Biden, but what they are missing is that the investigation that Trump wanted was of his main political rival in the 2020 election and he allegedly wanted a foreign government to carry out this investigation. This is illegal. Under Title 52 of the United States Code, Section 30121 (a)2, it is unlawful for any foreign national to “make a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election.” The contribution is the key here. As the head of the Federal Election Commission, Ellen Weintraub, has pointed out, foreign nationals are not allowed to assist American campaigns or parties under the aforementioned statute. If Trump did attempt to coerce the Ukrainians to investigate Biden, then he has committed a crime and thus, ought to be impeached.
Others who wish to defend Trump will try to argue that the Impeachment inquiry is unlawful and is too secretive to be fair to the president, but this too is a flimsy argument. For one, closed-door depositions, which many Trump apologists have lamented, were used during both the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings. Furthermore, the House has the sole power of impeachment under Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5 of the United States Constitution. The constitution also grants the house the power to regulate its own proceedings under Article 1, Section 5, Clause 2. Simply put, the House owes Trump nothing and even if it did, it is proceeding similarly to previous impeachment proceedings. Indeed, Federal Judge Beryl Howell has ruled that the impeachment inquiry is legal and can proceed as planned, allowing them to have access to sealed Grand Jury documentation from the Mueller investigation if it serves to enhance their investigation. The House has also voted to formalize impeachment, throwing the Trump defense out the window. The Impeachment inquiry is not going away anytime soon, nor should it.
In recent testimony, the American Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, told Congress that he had spoken to top Ukrainian officials and had told them they likely wouldn’t receive aid from the United States unless they investigated the Bidens. While not indicting Trump, this does to some extent show that the idea of a quip pro quo was not off the table when this move was being made. And with others, like American Envoy to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., confirming that military aid was directly tied to investigating the Bidens, an inquiry becomes increasingly important.
In 1788, Alexander Hamilton wrote that if impeachment is to be used, it ought to be used against those who abuse their power and the public trust, and if Trump is guilty of what he is accused, then he has violated the trust of every American and should never hold office again.
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/03/fec-chair-subtweets-trump-after-plea-for-china-to-investigate-bidens.html -FEC says taking help from foreign governments is unlawful.
https://twitter.com/EllenLWeintraub/status/1139309394968096768?s=20 –FEC chairwoman stating foreign interference is illegal.
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/52/30121 – Title 52 of the U.S. Code Section 30121 (a)2 makes it unlawful for anyone to receive assistance from foreign governments.