After receiving a whistleblower complaint last week involving a phone call on July 25, 2019 between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, committees in the U.S. House of Representatives are currently launching impeachment probes.
The whistleblower, who is said to be an intelligence agent, alleged that Trump sought foreign interference for his own political gain by requesting information regarding his 2020 opponent, Joe Biden, in exchange for military aid, Reuters reported.
The information involved Biden’s son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while Joe was simultaneously leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv, according to the Associated Press.
The president has denied any wrongdoing, but hearings are being called to discuss subpoenaed Ukraine-related documents, including staffers from the Senate and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs and Foreign Relations, Intelligence, Oversight and Appropriations committees, even in the midst of a two-week recess.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is spearheading the investigation, and calling on the committees to move “expeditiously,” the Associated Press reported.
A redacted version of the complaint was published, along with a log of Trump’s phone call with Zelenskyy.
Richard Witmer, a political science professor of government and politics, said that this investigation is constitutional/legal and political, posing two questions: “Has the president committed a crime or violated the trust of the office such that he should be removed?” and “How do the two parties, and non-affiliated voters, view the evidence, and process, and how will this impact the 2020 election?”
“Since this is a rare event, we don’t know how either will play out,” Witmer said. “For members of the House of Representatives, the constitutional/legal question will be debated and it is incumbent upon the majority party in the House to clearly state the case for impeachment. To bring public opinion along, this needs to be clearly stated.”
He added that the partisanship will complicate the process, which is why evidence being published and discussed in an understandable manner is important.
“Republicans would need to be thoroughly convinced of wrongdoing, and given prior perceptions and expectations about the Democrats, it is unlikely, though not impossible, to occur,” Witmer said. “Democrats are likely to be much easier to persuade as they don’t like Trump. Independents are hard to tell, but I think their reluctance to impeach can be overcome with a clear and compelling case.”
The Democrats say that they hope to conclude the investigation before Thanksgiving, the Associated Press reported.
“This won’t be done in a few weeks, but it would be a disaster for it to drag on in the House,” Witmer said. “I suspect we’ll have something from the House by the new year. For the Senate, I suspect they will want to get this done quickly once the House votes, if the House votes to impeach.”
The professor said he reserves any judgment or prediction of the outcome until more information becomes available, but he “wouldn’t want to be in the position of defending the president right now.”
“I suspect that preconceived ideas about the Trump presidency and political parties in general will filter the perception of the strength of the evidence among the public and voters,” he concluded.
Like Witmer, Republican lawmakers from Nebraska have urged Congress and the general public to tread cautiously before jumping to conclusions.
“Everybody in this whole process should slow down,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb, said.
He told reporters at the Daily Caller that Republicans shouldn’t be rushing to “circle the wagons” around Trump to protect him, Democrats shouldn’t be demanding impeachment before all the information is provided and the administration shouldn’t attack the whistleblower.
Sasse added that solving this issue “is going to take a lot of time but there’s obviously some really troubling things here, but I think the partisan tribalism that is always insta-certain is a terrible idea.”
Nebraska representatives Don Bacon and Adrian Smith expressed similar sentiments.
“Overturning the will of the American people requires evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, and that has not happened,” Rep. Don Bacon, NE-02, tweeted last week. “The rashness to pronounce guilt without facts is shameful and does not serve the interest of the nation.”
Rep. Adrian Smith, NE-03, also sent out a tweet last week, saying, “Based on the current facts, there has been an extreme rush to judgement. [President Trump] stated he will release the transcripts of the call. I implore Congress to gather all facts before taking any action.”
On the other hand, Democratic politicians have applauded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement to kick start impeachment proceedings.
In a press release on Sept. 24, 2019, Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb said, “Trump’s questionable, immoral and possibly illegal behavior has been well-documented for years, and nothing has changed since he moved into the White House. While President Trump is abusing power the Congressional Republicans from Nebraska are silent.”
Last week, representing the 20th Legislative District of Nebraska, Sen. John McCollister tweeted, “He colludes with foreign despots and disregards U.S. intelligence agencies to the detriment of our country’s foreign policy and national security. Donald Trump is an aberration and deserves to be impeached by the United States House of Representatives forthwith.”
On Sept. 30, Monica Gomez, president of Creighton College Democrats, sent out a press release commending Speaker Pelosi’s formal impeachment inquiry.
“Our Nebraska state motto dictates, ‘Equality before the law,’ and it is imperative that we remember that not even the president of our country is above the law,” Gomez wrote. “It is certain that information pertinent to impeachment proceedings will be at the forefront of headlines and our conversations, however, it is necessary to remind ourselves that we have an election coming that will require pragmatic action. While we can’t all be in the room where impeachment happens, we can all turn out to vote.”
Bailey O’Connor, the Nebraska College Republican State Chair, said that this is one of many attempts to impeach President Trump.
“Because of the Democrats’ constant focus on impeachment, we really are unsure if they are genuinely concerned about the President’s conversation or if this is just another attempt to overturn the 2016 election that they still cannot accept,” O’Connor said. “Instead of using recess to continue yet another impeachment effort, Democrats should seriously consider beginning to narrow in on a candidate. President Trump has been literally rallying people across the country, yet no Democrat has begun the official path to the Presidency.”