Columns / Discourse / October 2, 2019

An impeachment inquiry into the U.S. president

When the levee breaks … “Exporting lawlessness” … Democrats smell blood in the water …  A Quid and Quo but no Pro?

In July, President Trump called the newly elected President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, and asked him to “do us a favor”.

The “us” here does not include the American people. At no point in the phone conversation does Trump discuss American policy, said New York Times D.C correspondent Michael Schmidt. Trump’s entreaty was not in the country’s interest, only his own.

A reconstruction of the call released by the White House last week reveals Trump requested that Zelesnky investigate former U.S Vice-President Joe Biden, Trump’s leading opponent in the upcoming 2020 election. “The United States has been very very good to Ukraine” Trump told Zelensky.

Dangling behind his words were 300 million dollars worth of U.S military aid Trump reportedly told his staff to freeze. Ukraine needed that aide to fend off Russian backed separatists at its eastern border.

While freshmen House Democrats pledged to “impeach the motherfucker” long before the current scandal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remained hesitant. Championing the moderate Democrats that earned the party a majority in the House, Pelosi was not eager to destabilize their purple districts by raising impeachment as the primary 2020 election issue ahead of Trump’s disdain for environmental protections, his tax breaks for the wealthy, his affinity for white supremacists or his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But Trump gave Pelosi no choice, and so an impeachment inquiry into the President of the United States has begun.

According to the U.S Code of Laws, Chapter 301-Federal Election Campaigns, it is unlawful to accept a “contribution, donation of money or other thing of value” in connection with a federal election from a “foreign national”.

If you can remember, back when we plastered Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s face onto our t-shirts and coffee mugs like he was Che Guevara, the notion that Trump colluded with foreign nationals was exactly what first landed Trump as the subject of an investigation. He sat on live television and admitted why he fired former FBI Director James Comey – you know, he said, “this Russia thing”.

Well, the fervor of the Mueller investigation – its FBI door-busting and tear-filled testimonies before Congress – was extinguished by Mueller like a wet blanket when he refused to consider the implications of his report and chose instead to remain in the safety of its dry legalese.

In July, around the time of the Ukraine call, Mueller stood before the House Judiciary Committee to clarify he had not bestowed the President full exoneration and yet Trump took it anyway.

While the phone transcript seems to prove Trump broke the law, it will not be enough. Republicans have expressed “concern,” silence and rallying cries to Trump’s assertions that the inquiry is a “witch-hunt” and a “coup.” More details must emerge.

Like maybe about how the phone transcript was first locked away in a secret server, or how Trump cited Attorney General Barr in the call, and reporting from the New York Times shows the Justice Department tried to keep the whistle-blower complaint internal. The levee only broke for Republicans in 1974 when the “smoking gun” tapes were produced and they had no choice but to support Nixon’s removal.

There are only 47 Democrats in the Senate. To arrive at a 2/3rds majority would require a defection from 20 Republican senators. The unlikelihood of impeachment can imbue a sense of pointlessness to its inquiry, especially with the 2020 election months away. But the Framers of the constitution included the impeachment clause for a reason.

An election may be the easiest way to remove a president from office, but when a president attempts to fix that election by wielding an investigation into his opponent, the election is no longer sufficient and impeachment becomes necessary.

If we have learned anything from this inquiry, and from this presidency, it is that our institutions are not designed to hold crooks in power culpable. Trump’s attorney has just hired an attorney.

Shit flows downhill, not up. This truth is an obvious one to the marginalized people in our country, but – as the executive branch has spent the last century slowly fattening with power – I think it is a truth not seen before with such startling veritas in the highest position of our country. In other words, “Who watches the watchmen?”

Sam Lisec, Co-News Editor
Co-News Editor
Samuel Lisec is a junior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism and philosophy. During his sophomore year, he worked as a staff writer. At the start of his junior year, he became a news editor. He is the recipient of the Knox Theodore Hazen Kimble Award for best feature story in 2018, and the Illinois College Press Association Honorable Mention Award for a Comic Strip in 2018. Email:

Tags:  democrats Donald Trump impeachment politics Russia ukraine

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