The Current Mess in Washington

To put it simply, Washington is in disarray right now. As I am sure most of you have heard, President Donald Trump is in some extremely hot water. Although Trump always seems to be wrapped up in some kind of scandal, this most recent predicament, which involves a rather suspect (to put it kindly) phone call with the president of Ukraine, has the potential to blow all of the other Trump transgressions out of the water. 

So what exactly happened? 

On July 25th, President Trump called Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to congratulate the new president on his recent election victory and to discuss the United States’ role in providing a previously agreed-upon aid package to the Ukrainian military. For context, this is normal: the United States provides Ukraine with a portion of the funding and weapons that they use to defend themselves against Russian infringement on their borders. During this particular phone call, though, Trump sought to use the United States’ position of power over Ukraine by asking Zelenskyy to “do us a favor”—all while the aid package had yet to be delivered. Oh, and this proposed favor? It was to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Some people (though mostly Republicans like Trump), support the theory that Biden used his position as vice president to protect his son Hunter’s various business dealings, including certain arrangements that took place in Ukraine. No evidence supporting these claims has emerged, but many still insist that this misuse of power *definitely* took place.

How is all of this public knowledge? 

The one word answer to this question is: whistleblower. A whistleblower is someone who reports acts of fraud or abuse that appear illegal/corrupt within a public or private organization. When a president has a phone call with a foreign leader, there are many people monitoring the call to ensure that it “follows protocol.” Trump’s call, for obvious reasons, raised some red flags among those listening in—and as a result, a whistleblower reported the call. The whistleblower remains confidential because of the 1998 Whistleblower Protection Act, which Congress passed to ensure the safety of whistleblowers who are brave enough to come forward with crucial information. Although the White House was hesitant to release the transcript of the call, they eventually released it last Thursday. The transcript essentially confirms all claims made by the whistleblower, leaving Trump looking particularly dishonest, since he claimed upon multiple occasions that the call was completely ethical. 

Why does Trump want “dirt” on Biden?

Joe Biden has been and currently continues to lead the polls for the Democratic presidential nomination. Trump views Biden as a real threat to his 2020 reelection bid. He was therefore—apparently—more than willing to use unlawful methods to hurt Biden’s popularity among voters. Despite the overconfident facade he puts on, it appears that Trump does not have faith in his own abilities—even he knows that his presidency has been unpopular and controversial. 

What are the implications of Trump’s phone call?

Since both the whistleblower complaint and the transcript from the call surfaced, Trump has received a sizeable amount of backlash from not only the American public, but also from Congress itself. Allow me to reiterate: he, the sitting president of the United States, attempted to  meddle in the 2020 presidential race. Nancy Pelosi, the current Democratic Speaker of the House, has announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The House of Representatives is currently controlled by Democrats, and therefore Pelosi knows that she likely has the votes to successfully impeach Trump. The articles of impeachment will most likely be found under abuse of power and/or obstruction of justice. Since the Senate is controlled by Republicans, it is unlikely that Trump will actually be removed from office, as doing so would require a 2/3rds majority vote in that chamber to remove—and Republicans, by and large, have not shown any inclination to hold the president accountable for his actions. Impeachment—regardless if it is confirmed in the Senate—seriously damages the reputation of a president. If the House does impeach Trump, public opinion of him could drop even lower than it already is, and his chances of being reelected will be severely curtailed.