In case you’ve been leaving on an Amish commune for the past several weeks, there have finally been moves to proceed with a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. In response, conservative political commentators (and even some left-wing commentators) have been going into overdrive to obscure as much of the key details concerning the basis for the inquiry that it’s important to do a quick rundown of events:
- In September 2018, Congress appropriated $400 million in military aid to Ukraine for the 2019 fiscal year to assist the Ukrainian military in their ongoing fight against the threat of Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
- By June of 2019, not only had the approved aid not been delivered, President Trump had put a hold on the aid altogether. Moreover, Trump instructed Administration officials to tell any lawmakers who inquire into the delay of the aid to say that it was part of an “interagency process” but to give no further details.
- The Trump Administration’ s claim regarding the hold being caused by an “interagency process” is contradicted by President Trump himself when he claimed in an October 21st interview that the funds were held because of corruption investigations concerning Ukraine. A day earlier, his Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney went even further in not just confirming Trump’s stated reasoning regarding corruption—which would again render the earlier interagency proccess reason given to Congress a complete lie on the President’s part–but going so far as to affirm to a reporter’s question that the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was a part of the reason for holding the funds to Ukraine [1min 41 sec into the previous link].
- The aid continued to be withheld until September 11th, when the funds were finally released.
Two additional facts that give context to the timeline above:
- On July 25th, 2019, President Trump has a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky. On August 12th, 2019, an anonymous whistleblower complaint cites the July 25th phone conversation as evidence of Executive abuse of power on the part of President Trump to “advance his [Trump’s] personal interests” as well as to “help the President’s 2020 reelection bid”, among several other troubling points raised concerning Trumps actions and motivations in the course of his conversation with the Ukrainian president.
- On September 24th, 2019, President Trump released a non-verbatim summary of his phone call with the Ukrainian president, which shows that Trump does bring up the alleged wrongdoing of Hunter and Joe Biden that he would like the Ukrainians to investigate further. There are no explicit statements by Trump in the 5 page document where he says that he is withholding the $400 million in aid until and unless Ukraine complies with his request to look into the Bidens, or to aid in his 2020 Presidential campaign. Though one could just as easily argue that the very act of holding the aid in the first place (and lying about the reason for the hold, and then contradicting said lie when questioned), and bringing up settled legal matter with a foreign country regarding a potential political opponent–not to mention the fact that this entire document is not an official transcript of what was actually said in the conversation–makes this a very facetious Hail Mary for the no-impeachment crowd to clasp onto. It is also of note that in his conversation with the Ukrainian president, Trump never mentions his concerns regarding corruption in that country; the primary reason he gives for holding the funds months later (which, again, contradicts the dubious interagency process reason he gave to Congress even prior to that).
The fact that President Trump lied to Congress about why he was holding the already year-long approved military aid to Ukraine is enough to warrant an impeachment inquiry. Full stop.
Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution grants the House of Representatives “sole Power of Impeachment”. Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution lists the grounds for impeachment as “conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Constitution does not expand on how to define either “high crimes” or “misdemeanor,” leaving that at the discretion of the House of Representatives. In the Federalist Papers, however, founding father Alexander Hamilton defined impeachable offenses as, “offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”
If you want to argue that there is nothing wrong with Trump looking into the corruption of a nation that has already been approved to receive military aid, be my guest. If you want to argue that you just plain don’t care that he lied about his original reasons for refusing to release the aid, go ahead. If you want to say that Trump should not be impeached at the end of it all because he gave contradictory reasons for holding the aid, you are perfectly entitled to your opinion on that But you cannot say that the President intentionally misleading lawmakers as to the reason why funds–which they had already appropriated for a specific purpose–were not being released, does not, at the very least, warrant said lawmakers to investigate his conduct and behavior in the matter, considering a precedent of deceit and outright lying has now already been well established. All which can be argued to fall within Hamilton’s definition of being “an abuse or violation of…public trust”; i.e. conduct that falls well within the realm of warranting an impeachment inquiry, if not outright impeachment itself.
And that is the key issue to always keep in mind when discussing this topic. Absent of any conspiracies and deflections getting thrown around to poison the well against the legitimacy of even holding an inquiry to determine if the President’s actions merit impeachment, the fact remains that Trump admittedly lied to Congress as to the reason why he was holding the $400 million in military aid from Ukraine.
As is to be expected, the Republican members of Congress have shown no principled backbone on this matter whatsoever. They are firmly on Trump’s side, and have remained so through every contradiction, lie, and gaffe on the part of the President and his Administration’s officials. And will most likely continue to do so, regardless of what evidence is presented to them.
An impeachment inquiry is the bare minimal that is called for here given the facts of the case, and it is well within the rights of the lawmakers within the House of Representatives to pursue it. Because if the established law on a President’s potential abuse of his office and position is not pursued to its fullest extend necessary, regardless of political or partisan maneuvering or concern for how it might affect the 2020 election, said law will be rendered a shameful reminder of our public servants’ inability to live up to their oaths to this nation, as well as our inability to hold them accountable to it.
To allow an executive to not even face the formality of an investigation into his potential wrongdoings, sets a precedent from which there is no return; from which only further abuse and corruption is guaranteed to follow.