Presidential Update: SIU professors weigh in on possible Trump impeachment

SIU professors discuss Trump-Ukraine situation and impeachment inquiry.

By Juniper Oxford, Staff Reporter

 As the Trump-Ukraine scandal unfolds, SIU political science professors weighed in about the possible impeachment and what the likely outcome will be.

The Daily Egyptian sat down with professor Benjamin Bricker, who teaches constitutional law courses, professor J. Tobin Grant, the chair of the political science department and professor Stephen Bloom, who specializes in Eastern European countries and Ukraine. 

Context and what is happening

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Ukraine’s current situation and Russia’s past situation are more linked than what first meets the eye. 

Members of the Democratic Party have pursued charges against the current administration because of the possibility of foreign interference of Russia with the 2016 U.S. presidential election and are now pursuing impeachment based on possible interference with Ukraine and potentially other foreign countries.

When asked what the Ukrainian people thought about the situation, Bloom said it was embarrassing to some degree. 

The United States and Russia have both developed a reputation for foreign interventionism. Ukraine is at the edge of Russia and was once a part of the previous government’s vast empire. The United States has been on a long mission to “Westernize” previously Communist countries. 

“Ukraine is a country that has faced a lot of intervention from all sides because of its pivotal role between the east and west,” Bloom said. “We [the U.S.] have tried to get our way and Russia has been especially heavy handed at getting its way.” 

Bricker said Russia was vying to keep Ukraine within the Russian orbit and the United States was trying to bring Ukraine into western society. 

Ukraine recently had an election and Voldomyr Zelenskyy was elected as president in April.

U.S. President Donald Trump, called Zelenskyy congratulating him on his recent win in the parliamentary election and insisted that the Ukranian president should investigate Democratic candidate Joe Biden, Trump’s political opponent. 

The Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry in the House on Sept 24. to investigate this call as an attempt at seeking aid from a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election after a whistleblower complaint about the call was filed.

Bricker said shortly before the phone call to Zelenskyy, the military aid intended for Ukraine had been put on hold. 

Bricker said Trump wants the Ukrainian government to discuss the company Crowdstrike, an internet security firm brought in to investigate the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. 

“That is at the heart of the possible impeachment inquiry,” Bricker said. 

Bricker said after the announcement of the inquiry, the House will begin an investigation and will vote after it is complete. If a majority votes on it, the president will be impeached.

The impeachment process then moves to the Senate where a trial begins. The chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court presides over the trial. 

The House has the deciding vote on impeachment, if they vote to impeach, then the president officially becomes impeached and the case moves to the senate to determine whether or not he will be removed from office.

Arguments in favor of impeachment

The whistleblower complaint and transcription of the Ukraine call allege Trump attempted to solicit international interference in the 2020 election.

See more: (Presidential Update: What Happened During Week 2 of the Impeachment Inquiry)

Trump publicly called on China to investigate the Bidens, according to The Guardian, on October 3. 

Grant said the China situation adds to the broader claim that Trump abused his power and his request was connected to foreign policy.

Bricker said staff members of the White House tried to destroy the transcript.

“The public sees that transcript,” said Bricker, “the public sees that whistleblower complaint, which indicates that high staff members of the White House saw that telephone call and were concerned that the president possibly violated the law. He certainly abused his office for personal means.” 

Arguments in defense of the President 

Bricker said the president can claim that his actions are supreme in foreign affairs. If the president engages in private affairs with foreign leaders, the White House could argue that it is within their abilities to be unfettered, and this set of activities falls within that. 

“This claim is a bit weak,” Bricker said. “The president might also claim that there was not necessarily a ‘quid pro quo’ situation. He does not spell it out explicitly. The implication is strong, however.”

Grant said the president is still bound by the laws in place.

Is impeachment likely?

According to reporting done by USA Today, this development has caused members of the president’s own party to break ranks with him. Representatives and senators of both parties understand an impeachment vote could be the defining vote of their term in office. 

Former U.S. Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said he believes there could be as many as thirty-five Republican senators who would vote to remove the president from office, if the vote were to be held in private. 

In a tweet by Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), he said “by all appearances, the president’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.” 

Bloom said the impeachment proceedings could be a way for Trump to solidify his base.

Looking back at previous impeachments,” said Bloom, “especially with the Clinton impeachment, that was a way that he solidified his base. A lot of commentators are talking about this as well. I think that Trump does feel as if this would be to his advantage.” 

Bloom said the situations perhaps may not be the same: “The charges are very different. He might get more than he wanted.”

Bricker said it is unlikely for the Senate to pass impeachment but said he would not rule out the possibility, only because the content of the phone call is inappropriate.

“This is like nothing we have ever heard a president say,” Bricker said. 

Bloom said impeachment is unlikely to pass the Republican-led Senate.

If the impeachment vote in both chambers of Congress rides on party lines for the vote, this could hurt the Democratic Party in the 2020 election. 

However, the Republican Party will have at least as much of a difficult time in selling an impeached head of state to the American voter. Trump has the possibility of becoming the first impeached U. S. President to seek reelection. 

With a Democratic majority of the House and the severity of the offense,  it is likely that the House will vote to impeach the President. 

“At this state, I would likely say yes,” Bricker said. “It appears likely, for this reason. I do not believe Nancy Pelosi […] would start this impeachment inquiry if she did not believe in the end inquiry would result in articles of impeachment against the president.” 

Bricker said Pelosi and the majority of the Democratic party support impeachment.

Bricker said Trump could pull through the Senate, but the outcome would not be the vindication that he is looking for. 

Bricker said the House will likely rule on impeachment by the end of the year.

Staff reporter Juniper Oxford can be reached at  [email protected] or on Twitter at @JuniperOxford.

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