As Congress breaks for a recess after 10 days of explosive developments concerning President Trump’s abuses of power, impeachment of the president is now a very active subject on Capitol Hill. We will update these questions and answers, through press releases, blog posts, and other means, as developments continue.
What is the significance of Speaker Pelosi’s Sept. 24 announcement that the House is “moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry”?
It shows that the Speaker and the Democratic caucus believe that the misconduct by President Trump is serious enough that the House must and will determine whether to impeach him. It sends a strong signal that nobody is above the law and our government is fulfilling its constitutional duty to hold people accountable, including the president, if laws are broken.
What happened with Ukraine and what role did that play in the Speaker’s decision?
Although more investigation is ongoing, as Speaker Pelosi said, Donald Trump asked a foreign government to help him in his campaign by helping “dig up dirt” on a political opponent, former Vice President Biden. That is a betrayal of his oath of office and a crime, and it is clear that it played a key role in the Speaker’s decision and the increased support for impeachment.
Didn’t the Ukrainian president himself say he felt no pressure on the call with Trump?
The whistleblower complaint contradicts that claim. It makes clear that Ukrainian leadership was made to understand, over a period of months, that there would not even be a call between Zelensky and Trump unless the Ukrainians were willing to “play ball” on a number of issues, including election interference.
What about the Republican claim that the whistleblower report is only “hearsay”?
The Trump-appointed inspector general of the intelligence community evaluated the report and found it credible and urgent. The Trump-appointed acting Director of National Intelligence confirmed in an open hearing that the inspector general thoroughly investigated the report. Multiple other individuals who can corroborate the whistleblower report are referenced in it. And the White House memo of the July 25 call clearly corroborates much of what is in the whistleblower’s complaint.
What about Republican accusations that the whistleblower is a biased political hack?
The Trump-appointed acting Director of National Intelligence doesn’t agree with that; he says he believes the whistleblower is acting “in good faith.”
What should we make of Donald Trump’s threats to people who gave the whistleblower information? He’s compared them to spies and said “you know what we used to do in the old days” to spies.
Those threats are absolutely chilling; they are the words of tyrants and dictators. Threats to punish conscientious whistleblowers and their informants undermine the entire basis of the whistleblower system – a system Republicans claim to support. Indeed, these threats expose the crocodile tears that Republicans are shedding in claiming that the Intelligence Committee’s legitimate inquiries are somehow threatening the foundation of the whistleblower protection program.
What will happen next with the impeachment inquiry?
Each of the six House committees currently involved will continue their investigations and provide information and recommendations to the House Judiciary Committee, which will then compile and vote on Articles of Impeachment if the investigations so warrant. This should include efforts to solicit Ukraine’s interference in our elections, Trump’s violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, his contempt of Congress and his obstruction of justice. Any Articles approved by the Committee would then go to the House floor for a vote. If the House votes to impeach the president, the Constitution provides that the Senate should then conduct a trial, after which it would take two thirds of senators voting and present to convict the President.
What is likely to happen with respect to Ukraine and the whistleblower letter?
Events are moving very quickly in this area. The whistleblower complaint that reportedly raised concerns about Trump’s Ukraine conduct was provided to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on Sept. 25, the same day as the White House memorandum summarizing the July 25 call between Trump and the Ukrainian president. A redacted version of the complaint was publicly released on September 26 just before the public testimony of the Acting Director of National Intelligence before the House Intelligence Committee. Both Intelligence Committees are likely to seek and obtain testimony from the whistleblower personally, which could offer illuminating information that both Congress and the American people have the right to know. The information already released provides damning evidence of Trump’s abuse of power.
What about the White House claim that there was no quid pro quo?
That is irrelevant as to whether there was an impeachable offense: the discussion with the president of Ukraine, which Trump and his lawyer have conceded occurred and is proven by the memorandum of his call, and further backed up by the whistleblower complaint , is sufficient. In that conversation, Trump asked the president of Ukraine to provide something of value – helping to dig up dirt on Biden that would benefit the Trump reelection campaign—and he abused the power of his office to do it. That in and of itself is an impeachable offense. At the same time, the whistleblower complaint provides evidence that a quid pro quo did exist, because it reports that Ukrainian officials were made to understand that if they did not “play ball” on election interference and other issues, they would not get the call or meeting with Trump that they wanted. We also know that U.S. security aid to Ukraine was suspended during this time. If it comes out that Trump literally blackmailed or extorted the Ukrainian president in any way, that is an additional crime and abuse of office. But that is not required for an illegal act to have occurred ; just asking a foreign power to interfere in the election is illegal.
Why does this matter to all of us?
This is a step that has to be taken for the sake of our democracy because as long as we are living with this lawlessness and corruption at the highest levels of our government, it makes it very difficult to accomplish the work that is important to the people: addressing health care, climate change, the erosion of voting rights, or any of the other critical issues we must address. We understand that skepticism exists – largely because of this president’s history in evading justice so far. But this should be an important step toward righting that situation and, for the sake of the Constitution and the future of our democracy, it must be done.
How will Democratic voters react and how will it affect the elections?
We expect this will energize the Democratic base. Voters want to see Democrats standing up to this administration’s corruption. Nobody has a crystal ball when it comes to what might happen in the election, but people want to see elected officials taking a stand against corruption. This should help those who do – and hurt those who don’t. Anyone running for office right now has to make it clear: are they on the side of transparency and bringing the facts to light or are they on the side of this administration’s lawlessness and corruption.
What about Republican accountability?
Republicans will have to go on record as to whether they support full fact-finding about and action on this president’s activities. They have to answer for why they are okay with Trump’s corruption, or else take a stand against it. They will have to answer why they are okay with Trump asking a foreign government to interfere in our elections. And we think Republicans need to be held accountable for their actions in the next election.