The Trump-Ukraine controversy unfolds

Recently, allegations towards President Donald Trump emerged based on a whistleblower report regarding a phone call Trump had with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zolensky. Trump’s actions are unparalleled, concerning House Democrats about potential foreign meddling in the 2020 election, as enlisting foreign powers’ help in domestic politics is illegal. An impeachment inquiry, the fourth in American history, has been launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, citing “a breach of his Constitutional responsibilities” and a “betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”

Impeachment inquiries are more than one-step processes, and both the House and Senate members have to vote. Only if a House majority and two-thirds of the Senate vote in favor of impeachment are presidents impeached. Past presidents that have been impeached include Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

The whistleblower report at the center of the inquiry describes a July 25th phone call in which Trump discussed 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump accused Joe Biden of using his political power while vice president under President Barack Obama to dismiss prosecution charges against his son, who served as a board member for Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, has also publicly asked Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens. Currently, no illegal conduct has been found of the Bidens. The transcript of the phone call was also released to the public by the White House in response to the whistleblower complaint.

Trump also has withheld up to $400 million of aid prior to the phone call. Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, was removed from her post for allegedly not supporting Giuliani and Trump’s combined efforts to urge Ukraine to potentially investigate the Bidens. After a recent deposition of Kurt Volker, a high-ranking American envoy to Ukraine, House officials revealed texts from State Department officials working with Rudy Giuliani to try and exchange the military aid with Ukraine for investigation of the Bidens. 

House Democrats claim these actions to be a quid pro quo, while the Trump administration denies that they occurred. According to House Democrats, a quid pro quo would give strong evidence for an impeachment inquiry if Trump used foreign powers to further his political and international interests. Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, is scheduled to testify in front of Congress that a quid pro quo did not occur. 

Upper School history teacher John Monahan highlighted the importance of the phone call, and how it created the opportunity for the whistleblower to come forward. 

“It is true that there are a number of people whose jobs are going to be affected by a policy change, and so they need to understand the nuances of where a conversation leaves an understanding,” said Monahan. “There were people on this phone call between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine, and it left them startled and unclear, feeling like the personal nature of Trump’s requests that Joe Biden’s son be investigated were of unclear motivation if it was other than personal political gain.”

Monahan also expressed how the whistleblower report and the transcript of the Trump-Zolensky phone call were extremely important to influence public opinion about impeachment.

“So the whistleblower report exists and leads the White House to think that releasing the transcript of the phone call was going to help them; it did not seem to help them,” said Monahan. 

In public polls, impeachment seems to be a catalytic issue. Although opinions about whether Trump should be impeached are mixed, polls show a close divide.

“So, in terms of polling here, polls don’t usually move on big controversial topics very quickly over very short periods of time,” said Monahan. “There was a net 20 point movement, so polling went from roughly 56-36 opposed to impeachment to 46-45 pro-impeachment in the space of a week.” 

Some Westminster students are uncertain about whether Trump will be impeached. 

 “I don’t know [about the probability of impeachment],” said sophomore Khushi Sharma. “You have some people who like him but a lot of the public who don’t. I guess it all comes down to influence.”

The president has also refused to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, releasing an eight-page letter directed to leading House Democrats, specifically Representative Adam Schiff, Speaker Pelosi, and two other chairs of House committees relevant to the inquiry.

Given that your inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections, the Executive Branch cannot be expected to participate in it,” said White House counsel Pat Cipollone. 

The letter also accuses the impeachment inquiry as being a partisan attack and an attempt to reverse the results of the 2016 election.

“I find it very disturbing that we live in a time where the President of the United States’ integrity and methods are questionable to the point of generating an impeachment inquiry,” said sophomore Norah Lascar.