Impeachment Update

By Emma Seely

As President Donald Trump’s impeachment process continues, it is important to stay informed about what exactly is happening in the highest office of the country. Although media and news outlets have talked extensively about this process recently, it is not always clear what it entails, or why it matters. While Democrats and Republicans argue over an impeachment trial that will likely not result in Trump’s removal from office, debate may still remain about what all this means, and what it will do to the country. 


“The House [of Representatives] has impeached, so now the trial in the Senate begins,” says Dr. Christine Day, Professor and Chair of UNO’s Department of Political Science. “And where we are is that a lot of this [process] is so driven by political party that it was known from the get go, or speculated from the get go, that the House would vote to impeach with their Democratic majority. No one expects the Senate to remove the President from office, because it is majority Republican.”


As Day explains, Trump has been successfully impeached by the mostly Democratic House on two articles of impeachment, or two charges. The first charge was that the President abused his office’s power to withhold military aid to Ukraine ( a US ally) until the country agreed to investigate Joe Biden’s son in connection with a Ukranian company. The House argued this to be an abuse of the office, as Joe Biden would potentially be an opponent to Trump in the 2020 election, and therefore the withholding of aid could be interpreted to be done for Trump’s own political gain. 


The second article of impeachment, however, involves the White House’s alleged refusal to cooperate with impeachment proceedings by blocking witness participation in the hearings. This conflict is largely reflective of the heavily partisan nature of the rest of the trial. 


“The second article argues, or charges [Trump] with Obstruction of Congress,” says Day, “because the White House refused to allow so many witnesses called by the House to testify. Republicans all along have suggested the case [for impeachment] is weak because some of the principal witnesses haven’t even testified, but Democrats are pointing out that’s because the White House hasn’t permitted principal witnesses to testify. And so that is the basis of the second charge which is Obstruction of Congress, which is tantamount to Obstruction of Justice.”


With these charges resulting in Trump’s impeachment, the Senate phase of the trial begins. Before any witnesses are even heard, however, there are already questions being raised about trial procedure, and which evidence and witnesses should be heard. As of now, the trial cannot begin in earnest until these issues are decided.


“The Republicans would like to not see any more evidence and just quickly vote to acquit,” says Day. “And [for] Democrats,since the White House did not permit a number of witnesses called by Democrats during the House phase to testify, the Democrats would still like to hear from some of those witnesses, and more, since new information has also come to light since the House voted to impeach.The Senate says that Democrats in Congress are merely trying to drag this out as some kind of partisan conflict with the President and not really because there’s real evidence, and Democrats are saying “yes there’s plenty of evidence and more has come to light and we need to see it.’”


Regardless of which evidence is or isn’t used, it is still very unlikely that Trump will be officially removed from office, meaning that his “impeachment” will not affect his length of stay in the White House, or his ability to run in the 2020 election. It doesn’t mean, though, that the impeachment will be without effect, even if those effects are hard to predict. 


“[Impeachment] has happened only twice before; this was only the third impeachment,” says Day. “And what has it meant for the first two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton? Basically they go down in history as presidents who were impeached. What does that change, other than their historical legacy? That’s a really difficult complicated question.”


Some potential effects could be differences in public perception of Trump as a now impeached President, which could affect his bid for reelection. It is nearly impossible, though, to understand how much of an effect will be seen until election night. 


“How will this process affect President Trump’s campaign for reelection?” says Day. “It could. The answer is that it could, so I don’t want to say that impeachment is meaningless, but we really don’t know how it will affect those things. To some extent there could be further opposition to President Trump and his actions as evidence has been presented. To some extent there could be a closing of the ranks by his supporters, and even more determination to continue supporting him in light of this attempt to impeach him. I don’t think there are any firm conclusions to draw about public opinion and vote choice at this point.” 


Even as speculations about the long term effects of impeachment continue to rise, it is important to stay on top of this rapidly changing process. Day recommends that students check in daily, but also that they look for news from several different sources, as opposing media sources have been known to spin the same events in vastly different ways. 


“By the time this article is out things that I said or things that we talked about are probably going to be outdated to some extent,” Day says.  “It’s just from day to day because impeachment is so rare.”