President Donald Trump must be impeached.
Trump engaged in a months-long plot to coerce the new President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, into announcing two politically motivated investigations: one into the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and another into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. The evidence of the President’s pressure campaign is abundant, and the central charge, that he asked Zelensky for the investigations, is undeniable given the summary notes of a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky released by the White House. Trump withheld key military aid and White House meetings from Ukraine to strong-arm Zelensky into announcing the partisan domestic investigations. His actions ran counter to the national security interests of the United States and show he is willing to abuse the office of the presidency in order to damage his political rivals.
Central to the scandal is Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula of Ukraine with a population of over 2 million, which was condemned by NATO and violated Ukraine’s territorial integrity as affirmed by the United Nations. At the beginning of the occupation, the Obama administration pledged $1 billion in aid to Ukraine, essential for Ukraine’s survival in the struggle against Russia which has now caused the death of over 13,000 Ukrainians. This year, Congress appropriated almost $400 million in assistance to Ukraine to continue to defend against Russian aggression.
Earlier this year, Ukraine elected Zelensky, a political newcomer who ran on an anti-corruption and reformist agenda. After the election, Trump and his henchmen, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, began leveraging his office to convince Zelensky to initiate the aforementioned investigations, skirting normal State Department channels. In May, Giuliani told the New York Times “We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do.” If the President were genuinely interested in reforming Ukraine, there would be no reason for his personal lawyer to be running a shadow foreign policy pointedly designed to tarnish his rivals.
During the now-infamous July 25 call with Zelensky, Trump told Zelensky “I would like you to do us a favor though…” He then brought up a false conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, not Russia, and requested they launch an inquiry to validate that conspiracy. Trump went on to explicitly name Joe Biden in the call, accusing him of working to end an investigation into Hunter Biden, who was on the board of a Ukrainian company, and told Zelensky to coordinate with Giuliani. Records obtained by the House Intelligence Committee now show Giuliani was in contact with the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, in charge of the money designated for Ukraine, and whose acting director is also Trump’s acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney. When asked why the aid was being held, Mulvaney admitted it was being used as leverage.
Some of the President’s supporters have argued that while his actions were inappropriate, the conduct is not impeachable, or that impeachment is unnecessary because next year’s election will serve as a referendum on his behavior. Regardless of these objections, impeachment is necessary because Trump tried to subvert the legitimate electoral process by damaging his rivals. In fact, the possibility of a president abusing his office in the way Trump has was specifically contemplated by the Constitution’s Framers. James Madison argued the impeachment clause should apply to the President, saying “the limitation of the period of [the President’s] service, was not a sufficient security… He might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers.”
The President’s supporters have also contended that because the military aid to Ukraine was ultimately delivered, it was not being used as leverage for the investigations. The funding, however, was not released until after the White House became aware of a whistleblower complaint filed to warn Congress of the President’s scheme, indicating the administration was aware they were acting improperly, and reversed course only once they had been caught. Additionally, Zelensky still has not gotten the coveted Oval Office meeting he believes would shore up Ukraine’s credibility as a Western ally—a necessary step for the country to garner support in its efforts against Russia. During his Congressional testimony, Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland addressed the elephant in the room: Was there a quid pro quo? “With regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting,” Sondland said, “the answer is yes.”
Trump has lambasted the impeachment inquiry thus far as a sham, blocking key witnesses from testifying and important documents from being released despite Congress’s lawfully issued subpoenas. His contempt for the lawful impeachment process is obstructive, and reflects unwillingness to comply with the law.
Even if Trump’s claims about the Bidens and the 2016 election were true, which they are not, his actions hindered the stated foreign policy goals of the United States as a means of damaging his enemies. By dangling White House meetings and withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid, Trump tried to extort Ukraine in an attempt to solicit foreign interference in our electoral process. He put his own interests above his duty to our country, which warrants his removal from office being adjudicated in the Senate. Members of Congress have a responsibility to fulfill their oaths and defend the Constitution by impeaching this President.
Image Credits: Matt Wade