Don’t Know What’s Going on With the Impeachment Inquiry? Here’s a Brief Explainer.


Adam Fondren

At the protest downtown against President Donald Trump during his visit to the State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. Chronicle archives.

By Miacel Spotted Elk, News Writer

The Trump administration is rife with conflict by the Democratic House of Representatives after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an inquiry on Sept. 24 to conduct investigations from created committees to determine if seeking legal proceedings to impeach President Donald Trump are within their political hand.

What started it?

Back in July, President Trump made a phone call to the newly elected prime minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. According to a memo released by the White House — which isn’t an actual transcript — and a complaint filed to the House intelligence committee by the whistleblower, Trump encouraged the prime minister to look into possible wrongdoings of Hunter Biden, the son of presidential candidate Joe Biden, to utilize for the upcoming 2020 presidential election. It was discovered that foreign aid to Ukraine was halted days after the call.

Unidentified, the whistleblower will testify to Congress on the basis that identity will be sealed after Trump has repeatedly demanded to know the individual’s name and even interview the whistleblower.

After repeatedly being warned by his White House staff on concerns of subscribing to what an ex-aide described it as a “conspiracy theory,” the president believed Ukraine held information privy to expose Joe Biden’s son. 

Controversy has spiraled out onto online discourse by the fast-pace and cascading news developments, which are especially aggravated on Twitter’s platform. The president sent a tweet that called for Adam Schiff — the head of the House Intelligence Committee — to resign, and for Democrats to halt the investigation as an Evangelical pastor warned him it would spur “a civil war.” Memes and the general apparatus of online culture have tailored their responses to the climate where even a daily newsletter has been created to explain the news for curious readers.


Why is this important?

Professor Chris Burbank focuses on American politics and parties at the political science department at the University of Utah. “This is obviously an unusual event,” he said. “We don’t see this happen very often.” In 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached and eventually acquitted by the Senate. Before that, it was former President Richard Nixon who arrived at a period of impeachment — resigning swiftly before Congress could prosecute him.

Many members of the House have called for impeachment before Pelosi announced the process with caution. “What she was saying very clearly to Democrats, this is a big step,” Burbank said. The steps taken here could either pursue a direct line to impeachment for the president and curate a victory for Democrats—or end in shambles for the majority blue House for the upcoming 2020 election. “One of the other aspects of this is that the chances of the senate convicting at this point seem very slim,” Burbank said.

For the public and Washington, it’s a heated assessment if the president’s phone call was conducted for national or personal interests. In a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 43% of voters agreed that impeachment proceedings should be green-lighted


How does this affect Utah?

For Utahn politicians, Ben McAdams is in a unique position. The Democrat who was elected by the third congressional district in the midterm and barely slid by, was initially silent on the inquiry. “Pelosi understands he was elected in a tight district,” Burbank said. “Therefore he isn’t involved in much of the inquiry process unless there’s a definite finding.” On Oct. 4, he released a statement that supported the inquiry. “We find ourselves today at the point that an [impeachment] inquiry is necessary to get all of the facts on the table,” he said.

On the other aisle, Senator Mitt Romney was recently called the “GOP’s Al Gore” by Rudy Guiliani for expressing concern about Trump’s behavior. Commentary has placed Romney as possibly orchestrating other Republicans to cast votes for Trump’s impeachment if there has been compelling evidence to do so. 

In a live-streamed town hall, Senator Mike Lee believes the inquiry shouldn’t be marked as anything different than the standard act of pushback to Trump by his Democratic colleagues.

“I feel like this is a distraction,” Jeremiah Hayes said. “At the end of the day, this [event] caters to the immediate news cycle.” As the chairman of the Utah College Republicans and a student at BYU, Hayes believes this event is strategically deployed by leading Democrats such as Pelosi and Biden to maintain their power as establishment figures in Washington and swipe important issues for Americans aside. “They don’t care about us,” he said, touching on his viewpoint as a young voter gearing up for next year’s election. 


What’s next? 

After threatening to subpoena the White House if they didn’t follow orders to release an array of documents tied to Ukraine and their probe, House Democrats have subpoenaed many associated with Trump, including Rudolph W. Giuliani. Trump has been intensely resisting the House’s impeachment efforts. “President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances,” said Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel.

This is the fourth time in the country’s history for a president to encounter the possibility of impeachment.


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