The President of the United States must be impeached. This is not something I say lightly; impeachment is perhaps Congress’ most significant and carefully considered power, implemented only twice in the nation’s history. But after the latest revelations about Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine, it has become clear that impeachment is not only a good idea, but necessary for the future of this country and the democratic ideals it claims to uphold.
Over the past week, many people, including nearly the entirety of the Democratic caucus in the House, have come to hold this position. However, as a CBS poll released on September 29 revealed, 22 percent of Americans believe it is “too soon to say” whether the president deserves to be impeached. If you’re a member of this group, perhaps an anxious Democrat or a concerned Republican, this op-ed is for you.
The ethical case for impeachment is clear. The series of events is as follows: on July 25, 2019, Donald Trump had a phone call with newly elected Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. During that call, Trump reminded Zelensky that the United States has been “very, very good to Ukraine” while scolding the country for not upholding reciprocity between the two countries. Then, when Zelensky bought up the prospect of military aid from the US, Trump requested a “favor” from Zelensky. The favor, you may wonder? An investigation into Democratic frontrunner in the 2020 primary election, Joe Biden, on charges that have been debunked by numerous major news outlets. After the phone call, $250 million in military aid to Ukraine was withheld by the Trump Administration, which was only released Sept. 12 after the press began to ask questions.
Even a generous reading reveals a disturbing quid pro quo: America’s security and the safety of an allied country were put at risk to further Trump’s political interests
This phone call, the contents of which were revealed in an edited transcript released by the White House on Sept. 24, reveals a shocking series of abuses of the President. The first part is impeachable on its own. The President used his formidable foreign policy powers to request that a foreign government pursue a baseless investigation of a political opponent. This is deep violation of democratic norms of fairness and a threat to the legitimacy of our elections. Furthermore, even a generous reading of Trump’s actions during and after the phone call reveals a disturbing quid pro quo in which America’s national security interests and the safety of an allied country were put at risk for the purpose of furthering Trump’s political interests. This is conduct more becoming of a mob boss than a president, and makes a clear case that Donald Trump can no longer be trusted with the powers of the presidency.
I understand that for many Democrats, however, the ethical case is not enough. Since the impeachment process is unlikely to actually result in the removal of the president (while impeachment only requires a simple majority of the House, the actual process of removal requires 67 senators to vote to convict, which would require 20 Republicans and every Democrat to vote in favor), impeachment should benefit Democratic chances of defeating Trump in the 2020 election to be considered worthwhile. Luckily for Democrats, the political case for impeachment is similarly strong. The aforementioned Sept. 29 CBS poll shows that a majority of Americans, 55 percent, support the House’s impeachment inquiry. A further 46 percent would support impeachment if a vote were held today, compared to 43 percent who disapprove. These numbers, which have risen significantly since the beginning of the Ukraine scandal, have the potential to rise even further as public understanding of the scandal deepens. The impeachment process gives Democrats the opportunity to do this educational work, by holding hearings and keeping the story in the news for an extended period of time. While it’s too early to call impeachment a definitive political winner, it’s clearly not as risky as many perceive it to be.
Given the facts at hand, it is clear that impeaching the president is a moral imperative. He has violated democratic norms and put the national security of our nation and others at risk in the pursuit of petty political gain. Readers should make their voices heard and contact their representatives, whether at Bates or at home, to make it clear that impeachment is necessary.