Impeachment Made Easier
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The irony of President Trump’s reported actions in dealing with Ukraine have dramatically increased the probability that the President will be impeached. Trump’s misuse of presidential power to enlist the assistance of the Ukrainian President to aid in Trump’s re-election campaign as well his ordering the withholding of appropriated military assistance funds from Ukraine pending Ukraine’s compliance with this request, are far simpler charges to prove than those contained in the Mueller Report. These charges as well the withholding from Congress of the Intelligence Community’s whistleblower’s report constitute straight forward allegations. (Impeachment charges are not required to meet the same standards as do criminal charges but are subject to the interpretation of the Congress.)
As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally set an impeachment inquiry in motion on Tuesday afternoon, there will be actions over the next few days which also will impact on the speed of the inquiry and the roles that numerous participants in this drama adopt. The questions are rather straight forward:
- Will the whistleblower’s report on President’s conversation be satisfactory and sufficient for Congress, or are there other presidential conversations which are suspect and which the whistleblower might disclose under committee questioning?
- Will the report of the Inspector-General from the Intelligence Community be sufficiently detailed and unredacted?
- Will the testimony on Thursday of Joseph Macguire, Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI), be sufficiently credible to satisfy Congress?
- Will Congress ask former DNI head Dan Coats to testify concerning his knowledge about any misuse of intelligence relationships and information?
- Are there any more Republican Members of the Senate or the House who will even go as far as Senator Mitt Romney in suggesting that the President’s actions are suspect?
- Will it be determined in whether Joe Biden or his son was involved in campaign finance breaches?
Speaker Pelosi’s decision to proceed with an impeachment inquiry is pushing the envelope much farther than she had been willing to go only last week, prior to the Ukrainian expose. Her test now will be whether she is able to use the impeachment inquiry effectively enough to counter Trump’s broadside attacks and efforts to exonerate himself?
If Donald Trump specifically sought to enlist the assistance of a foreign Government in order to help his re-election campaign, he has probably violated the law. If Donald Trump withheld money appropriated by Congress from another country, then the President did violate a law. If he ordered other agencies to hold up monies pending a decision by another Government to help his re-election campaign, then President Trump violated the law. In all three cases there should be impeachment charges brought against him. (It must be understood that presidential impeachment by the House and removal from office are the only actions Congress itself can take against a sitting President.)
On a global level, one needs to consider that at this very moment two of the oldest democracies in the world are being tested by political leaders who are prepared or are at least considering snubbing their noses in the face of traditional democratic values and to assert authoritarian leadership. Both Donald Trump and Boris Johnson appear to be ready to run their respective countries regardless of what the law and the courts demand.
If Prime Minister Johnson refuses to comply with the decision of the British Supreme Court and does not call Parliament back into session and/or fails to relinquish his party leadership, he could subject the United Kingdom to one the greatest constitutional crisis it has faced in its history. At the same time if President Trump does not turn over to Congress- as required under the law–the necessary documents or is demonstrated to have withheld congressionally appropriated funds to ensure receipt of political favors, Trump will have committed an impeachable offense.
Both men will have led challenged their country’s democracy at its core.