Impeachment: To the Left and To the Right

Two Uproar staffers from opposing political viewpoints discuss the current proceedings regarding President Trump.

The public's reaction to the Trump impeachment inquiry has predictably fallen along party lines.

image from Google

The public's reaction to the Trump impeachment inquiry has predictably fallen along party lines.

By Anjana Suresh and Tyler Boyles

America’s polarized political climate has given rise to divisive views on the Trump presidency. A recent poll by Fox News found that 51% of voters support the impeachment and removal of President Trump, and a similar Huffington Post poll revealed that 45% of voters support the same cause.  On October 31st, the House of Representatives voted 232-196 in favor of an impeachment inquiry. The proceedings are now underway.

As two Uproar staffers with opposing political viewpoints, we met in the middle of the aisle to discuss our thoughts on the impeachment inquiry at present.

Anjana: I believe the impeachment of Trump is now warranted. I still believe there was some evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election; however, the probe was unsuccessful. There is now new evidence of Trump’s relationship with the Ukrainian government that can’t be ignored, and another Fox News poll also shows that 51% of voters also believe that the Trump administration is more corrupt than previous administrations.

Tyler: I don’t agree. From the beginning of the President’s term, impeachment has been brought up many times by top Democrats. They tried with the Russia investigation and came up empty. The President has not committed any crimes. This is simply another political circus by the Democrats ahead of the 2020 election. The only “evidence” the Democrats have is hearsay of hearsay. 

Anjana: Trump claimed that he could do what he strictly wanted in terms of foreign policy. He abused this power and repeatedly undermined his own government in the eyes of foreign powers and threatened Ukraine, an important ally. Withholding needed military aid from Ukraine, as well as an important White House visit for Ukrainian president Zelensky, is a matter Trump seems to have taken extremely lightly by placing his own interests first. In reality, it is a serious matter of national security. In terms of impeachment, saying that Ukraine only receives aid unless they give us something in return proves that administration operates on quid pro quo

Tyler: To prove it was really a quid pro quo, the investigators must prove Trump’s intentions, and there is no insight into Trump’s state of mind. Moreover, the military assistance was released on September 11th. Even if there was a quid pro quo, Trump did not receive any of his demands. The Ukrainian President also never publicly announced an investigation. 

Anjana: I think Trump’s intentions were clear. Trump pushed for the removal of Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, without backing from the State Department, since she had done nothing wrong. Trump probably saw her as an obstacle to getting what he wanted from the Ukrainians and therefore had no real reason to remove her other than for advancing his own personal interest. “Bad faith” is an element of an impeachable offense, and summarily removing someone from office without any form of backing by the State Department demonstrates bad faith.

Tyler: The President has every right to fire who he pleases. President Barack Obama fired every single ambassador from the Bush administration. Additionally, the removal of Yovanovitch does not equate to quid pro quo, since the President never used the military aid to bribe the Ukrainian government into investigating Joe Biden. Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti makes the case that even if Trump had offered an explicit quid pro quo to the Ukrainian president, it would not violate federal bribery statutes or any other existing criminal statute.

Anjana: Trump’s criticism of Yovanovitch came in the form of a tweet, so he essentially intimidated her as she was a witness, as Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff noted. To counter your other point, you have to consider the request itself. Even though it was unannounced, the power disparity between the US and Ukraine makes it essentially a demand for Ukraine in the form of a quid pro quo. Requesting Zelensky to investigate the Bidens was simply done for Trump’s personal gain — to try to weaken the Biden campaign, since Biden is a potential 2020 opponent. 

Tyler: There is possible evidence that the Bidens could be involved in corrupt proceedings. The matter of the Bidens’ involvements in Ukraine has been public controversy for years, as when “The Times’s editorial board scolded the senior Biden in December 2015 for his son’s profitable connection with a Ukrainian oligarch ‘under investigation in Britain and in Ukraine” for “corrupt practices.'” Eric Ciaramella, the alleged Ukraine whistleblower, was a guest of Vice-President Joe Biden at a lunch in October 2016 to honor the Italian Prime Minister. To add, the New York Times said, “What it does not show, however, is Trump tying his request to the release of U.S. military aid in the manner of a quid pro quo.”

Anjana: There are also other offenses that can’t be ignored. White House officials’ refusal to testify by not reading supporting documents is essentially obstruction of justice. This happened in the Nixon administration, and an impeachment article for contempt of Congress was issued. Rep. Schiff brings up the Nixon doctrine in order to prove that the impeachment inquiry is indeed fair. A federal judge backed Schiff by ruling in favor of the inquiry’s legality.

Tyler: The investigation may be legal, but it certainly isn’t fair. As far as traditional jurisprudence goes, the impeachment inquiry was deeply flawed. President Trump’s lawyers do not have a guaranteed role in the private depositions and public hearings. This means that his legal team cannot cross-examine witnesses. Republicans are also shorted the ability to issue subpoenas. The President, right off the bat, has been deprived of his due process rights. Schiff should be ashamed of himself for lying to the American public when he read a parody of the original phone call. This was a deliberate effort to misguide Americans. The whistleblower should testify before the committee and let the American people know as his identity is not protected. The President has been completely transparent and has released the calls he had with the Ukrainian President.

Anjana: The White House actually reclassified their filing system to cover up the phone calls made between Trump and Zelensky– a clear obstruction of the investigation. House Speaker Pelosi said it best: “The President will be held accountable. When it comes to impeachment, it is just about the facts and the Constitution.” There is reasonable question surrounding the President’s actions, and the inquiry is a simple demonstration of checks and balances. In regards to the whistleblower, It is imperative that instances like these are brought to public attention. It is in fact a crime to out the whistleblower, shown by the Whistleblower Protection Act. Trump has repeatedly attacked the whistleblower and made several false claims about them on Twitter. 

Tyler: According to PBS, “’There’s nothing that can block Trump from revealing who he or she is,’ said Bradley Moss, a whistleblower attorney who specializes in national security. ‘However, the law explicitly tasks the president with enforcing protections against retaliation.’” The whistleblower was not even on the call. This is automatically hearsay — inadmissible in court.  If it is indeed Eric Ciaramella, we find ties to Former Vice President Joe Biden.

Anjana: His complaint isn’t just about the call. His report included that the White House tried to cover up the calls, something that they probably wouldn’t need to do if the President’s intentions weren’t harmful. More than half a dozen US officials informed the whistleblower of these events, and the transcript of the call closely matches his description.

Tyler: After a good read of the call transcript, it is clear that nothing wrong or illegal was said or done in the call at any point. Zelensky said to the gathered reporters, “No, you heard that we had good phone call. It was normal, we spoke about many things, I think, and you read it.” The transcript only mentions the Bidens. The call has no mention of the military funding.

Anjana: A White House official who actually listened in on the call described the call as “completely lacking in substance relating to national security.” Many officials were already concerned that the call would extend to borders outside the traditional ones in terms of diplomacy. The official later remarked that urging a foreign power to investigate Biden for the purpose of advancing his 2020 campaign is a sign of a criminal act.

Tyler: Acting ambassador Taylor, Yovanovitch, and other witnesses, including the MIA whistleblower, have no first-hand evidence that Trump threatened to withhold aid in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens. That is still a critical missing link. This is simply a political smear on the President before the 2020 election. Any American can read the call and see that nothing that was said is impeachable or close to being corrupt. After all, Democratic Rep. Al Green said it best: “I’m concerned if we don’t impeach the President, he will get re-elected.”

Anjana: The current impeachment inquiry should remain a tabled discussion for good reason — the Trump administration has shown clear evidence of obstruction of justice, quid pro quo, and frankly, corruption, by undermining the American government. 

Tyler: Well, Anjana, we clearly see the current situation from different viewpoints, but it was good to have this conversation.  It’s always useful to consider the other side before forming our own conclusions.

Anjana:  I agree, Tyler.  Thanks for doing this article.

Tyler:  You bet.  And who knows how this whole thing will turn out?

This story was originally published on The Uproar on November 20, 2019.