December 3 2019
After days of hearings, which included testimonies from former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and United States Army lieutenant colonel Alexander Vindman, the first phase of the impeachment inquiry came to a close. This first phase focused mainly on US President Donald Trump’s infamous July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which it is alleged Trump attempted to engage Ukraine in a quid-pro-quo: withholding military aid to Ukraine until an investigation on Joe Biden’s son Hunter was complete, information that would aid Trump’s 2020 election prospects. On Tuesday, House Democrats released a 300 page report on this phase of the inquiry, shedding light on the inner-workings of the hearings and foreshadowing how the impeachment process will likely develop in the days to come.
What Were the Main Conclusions?
The official conclusion of the House Intelligence Committee is as follows: “President Trump’s scheme subverted U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favor of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential reelection campaign. The President demanded that the newly-elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, publicly announce investigations into a political rival that he apparently feared the most, former Vice President Joe Biden, and into a discredited theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 presidential election.” (pg. 1)
In the Republican report, it is stated that President Trump “was acting on genuine and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine” at the time of the July 25th phone call. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who was traveling with President Trump at the time of the release, called the Democratic report the end of a “one-sided sham process” by Adam Schiff, (D-CA). “Chairman Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump. This report reflects nothing more than their frustrations. Chairman Schiff’s report reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing,” said Grisham.
House Democrats voted Wednesday night to send the report to the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee, controlled by Democrats, is the committee which will decide whether or not to bring forward official articles of impeachment against the President. This is the third time in history that this has happened. While the House report stops short of recommending impeachment, it could be where the Democrats are headed. According to Congressman Adam Schiff, “I'm going to reserve any kind of a public judgment on that until I have a chance to consult with my colleagues, with our leadership. As you can tell, I am gravely concerned that if we merely accept this that we invite not only further corruption of our elections by this President, but we also invite it of the next president."
What Happens Next?
Tuesday’s release sets the government up for a hectic month, with speculation being that Democrats could move to impeach before Christmas. If this happens, and the House votes to impeach, Donald Trump will not be removed from office. Rather, a trial will be held in the Senate. It requires a two-thirds majority in Congress to remove a president from office, meaning that 20 Republicans would need to vote with Democrats to actually remove the president. If this were to happen, Vice President Micheal R. Pence would assume the office.
The immediate next step, however, is to hold another hearing at the House, which set to take place Wednesday. The White House legal counsel has announced that neither the President nor his lawyers will take part in this hearing. Wednesday’s hearing will instead focus on clarifying what exactly an impeachable offense is, with all witnesses being lawyers and legal professionals, who will seek to explain Article 2, Section 4 of the US Constitution: a president can be “removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
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