Despite protests from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the Democratic Party and the American people alike, the Mueller Report had seemingly, in the words of President Trump, allowed for ‘total exoneration’ regarding his election campaign’s ties with Russia. Any thought of impeachment had seemingly gone up in smoke.
But once again, a leak within the White House from an anonymous whistleblower has plunged President Trump under even more scrutiny. The leak reveals details of a call between President Trump and the recently elected President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. The President had allegedly pressed his opposite number to investigate former Vice-President and current Democratic front-runner Joe Biden over his attempts to withhold aid to Ukraine if they did not fire a prosecutor investigating a company in which Hunter Biden, the son of the ex-VP, was a board member.
The Democrats under the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have launched an inquiry into impeachment proceedings against the President, accusing him of pressuring Ukraine into investigating and damaging the reputation of a political rival. Congress itself has been locked in a battle with the Government and the Justice Department to have the information and transcript of President Trump’s call with President Zelensky released for their review.
Impeachment, which the Democrats have long since lauded they would seek against the President, is the legal removing of a government figure if they have been found to have broken the law or acted unconstitutionally. For proceedings to occur in the US, it must first receive majority approval in the House of Representatives, which if met will then be moved to trial in the Senate. After the trial the Senate will vote, with a 2/3 majority needed for the impeachment to pass. If this is met, the President would be removed from office with their Vice-President taking over for the remainder of the term.
Impeachment proceedings have only been twice brought against a sitting President, most famously in 1998 against Bill Clinton, amid allegations that he had perjured himself regarding his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. However, the Senate did not meet the 2/3 majority of 67 votes and therefore maintained the record of no US President ever being removed from office via impeachment.
The allegations against President Trump also involve his ex-lawyer and former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani. It is alleged that Mr Giuliani and President Trump enacted what the New York Times have branded as ‘Shadow Foreign Policy’ in driving for the investigation into Mr Biden, as well as Ukraine’s impact on the leaking of documents that incriminated former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. It is also alleged that President Trump told his Ukrainian counterpart that he would withhold an aid package worth $391 million for their involvement in the initial Trump/Russia investigation.
The information regarding the President’s call with President Zelensky has been disputed by the US Government, who maintain that no attempt to pressure Ukraine into damaging Mr Biden and his campaign was made. President Trump duly tweeted that the matter was a simple case of diplomacy between the two nations.
Again, the President of Ukraine said there was NO (ZERO) PRESSURE PUT ON HIM BY ME. Case closed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2019
However, a transcript of the call released to the general public indicates that not only did the President discuss Mr Biden with President Zelenksy, but he also stated that the Ukranian President should work with the US Attorney General William Barr to further the investigation.
‘Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.’ – President Trump to President Zelensky from the released transcript of their call.
A CNN interview with Rudy Giuliani also added fuel to impeachment proposals. When questioned by Chris Cuomo as to whether he asked Ukraine to investigate the former Vice President, Giuliani replied with ‘No’ before replying with ‘Of course I did’ when asked the same question just a minute later. Mr Giuliani in separate interviews has also shown inconsistency when questioned about his dealings with the Ukraine Government, stating on Fox News about a possible conspiracy involving American philanthropist George Soros.
The increasing efforts of the Democrats to bring the impeachment inquiry to the House has since led to President Trump lashing out at his opponents. In a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Mr Trump was involved in a hostile exchange with a CNN reporter, demanding the reporter to ‘ask him [Niinisto] a question‘ rather than provide a straight response to the original question regarding Mr Trump’s dealings with the Ukranian Government. In a heated press conference, the President branded both Joe and Hunter Biden as ‘stone-cold corrupt‘ whilst insulting Democrat Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, calling him a ‘lowlife‘ as well as accusing him of treason.
The Democrats have defended their inquiry by stepping up their investigation into the White House. They have demanded that the White House co-operate with their inquiry by releasing Ukraine related documents, threatening a subpoena if their demands are not met. However, it is still some way off from a formal House vote to impeach the President with more evidence needed to confirm that the whistleblower complaint will not have the same conclusion as the Mueller Report. A poll by USA Today shows that there is public support for impeachment. However, for this to be successful, the Democrats will have to be succinct in their attempts to impeach President Trump, as a vote to remove him will be near impossible due to the control of the Republican Party in the Senate.