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An Overview of the Impeachment Inquiry Against President Trump

President Donald Trump’s impeachment is now more likely than not after the House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment on Friday, December 13. But due to a Republican-controlled Senate, Trump’s presidency will probably not be cut short.

 

The articles of impeachment are mainly based on two accusations: Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and Trump later refusing to comply to an investigation on the matter. These accusations, which President Trump has repeatedly denied, have been labeled as “obstruction of justice and abuse of power.” 

 

The allegations arise from a phone call last July between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. During the phone call, president Trump allegedly tried to convince Zelensky to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. This was likely done in an attempt to undermine Biden’s 2020 Presidential campaign, which could pose a threat to President Trump’s re-election. 

 

During the phone call, President Trump allegedly also asked Zelensky to chase the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the previous US Presidential elections to help elect Trump.  

 

This is because a day before the phone call, former Special Counsel of the US Department of Justice Robert Mueller had testified against President Trump over a separate incident related to potential Russian involvement in his election. In his testimony, Mueller claimed that Russian efforts may have helped elect President Trump by stealing and releasing emails that harmed Hillary Clinton.

 

Promoting the false idea that Ukraine interfered in the elections would help undermine evidence of Russian interference and ease doubts about President Trump’s legitimacy. 

 

To try to get Zelenskyy to comply, President Trump froze Congressional military aid meant to help Ukraine in its war against Russian-backed forces. The $400 million in military aid makes up one-tenth of Ukraine’s defense budget and would be a huge blow to their efforts if it were removed. 

 

In addition, President Trump seemed to be using his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to gain influence in Ukraine. Giuliani and allies then worked to force out the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, based on unproven claims that she was disloyal to Trump. Yovanovitch would later testify that Trump and Giuliani likely saw her as an obstacle to their goals with Ukraine, which led to her removal. 

 

There is also an allegation that Trump offered a White House meeting to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in exchange for the investigation on Biden. This allegation has been labeled as “quid pro quo,” which is just a fancy way of saying “this for that.” A quid pro quo is simply when a favor is granted in exchange for something else.

 

After hearing and considering the accusations, the House Judiciary Committee then recommended that Trump be impeached. While an official vote hasn’t gone through yet, one is expected soon. Only a majority of the 435 representatives need to vote yes for the impeachment to go through. Since most representatives are Democrats, it’s very likely that the President will be impeached. 

 

Should Trump get impeached, the articles of impeachment will then move on to the Senate for a trial. The Senate will then look over evidence and listen to witnesses before taking a vote. A two-thirds vote will then be needed to remove the President from office. But since a majority of the Senate is Republican, it’s more likely that Trump will be staying in office. 

 

While it’s unlikely that Trump gets removed from office, impeachment would be a historic event, as only two presidents have ever been impeached. It remains to be seen whether an impeachment would harm or bolster his presidential run for a second term in the future.

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