Analysis: Understanding the Trump Impeachment Inquiry

Since September 24th, the day on which Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated the formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald J. Trump, the media has been in a state of chaos. Countless national publications seem to be racing to report on the latest developments, creating a whirlwind of new information and burying the inquiry’s fundamentals in the rubble. To properly understand what may be the biggest story of Trump’s presidency, let’s get back to the basics. 

What’s happening? 

It all began with a whistleblower. An anonymous intelligence official alleged that Trump had conspired with the President of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky, to dig up dirt on 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. These allegations arose just days after Trump withheld nearly $400 million worth of aid from Ukraine, presumably in an attempt to pressure the country into conducting an investigation. 

In the past, Congress has deemed three types of conduct grounds for impeachment: abusing the powers of the presidential office, behaving in a manner that conflicts with the function of the office, and inappropriately using the powers of office for personal gain. If the six House committees involved in the investigation can prove that Trump used his office for the “personal gain” of tarnishing his political rival’s image, impeachment proceedings will commence; thus setting off the ticking time bomb that is the Trump presidency.  

Why now? 

Though he has come under fire on multiple occasions — from his crass discourse in the Access Hollywood tapes to the accusations of collusion with Russia — Trump is coming out of his first presidential term relatively unscathed. If such offenses never sparked an impeachment inquiry, why does this particular action suddenly cross the line? 

The whistleblower’s allegations possess what Mueller’s redaction-riddled, 400-page report lacked: clarity. While the report’s jumbled nature could give way to varying understandings and controversy, the whistleblower complaint and released transcript of the Trump-Zelensky phone conversation leave little room for interpretation. Both documents indisputably suggest that Trump sought foreign aid in investigating Biden, and this explicitness is just what House Democrats needed to set the inquiry in motion.  

Pelosi previously refrained from launching formal impeachment proceedings due to the incredibly divisive effects of such a decision, but in light of recent events, she has changed her tune. According to the New York Times, Pelosi told House Democrats in a closed-door floor meeting that “right now, we have to strike while the iron is hot.” 

While the inquiry can be considered a natural consequence of the Trump administration’s actions, an ulterior motive on behalf of the Democrats may lie beneath the surface. With Trump’s term slowly concluding and the 2020 election looming, kicking off an impeachment investigation now may be part of a political strategy to shake the faith of his fanbase. Through every revelation discrediting Trump’s integrity and professionalism, his supporters have remained as steadfast as ever. Nevertheless, even if he remains in office, the fact that he is facing impeachment may stir considerable doubt concerning his suitability for the presidency. Pelosi may be willing to ignite political controversy and division if it weakens Trump’s chances of reelection.  

What happens next? 

Impeachment to the president is like indictment to a criminal. A House majority is needed to impeach the president, but a subsequent 2/3 vote in the Senate is needed to effectively remove the president from office. Given the Republican majority in the Senate and the reality that not a single republican senator supports impeaching Trump, his removal from office is fairly unlikely. 

Furthermore, the White House has already exhibited their defiance in a letter to Congress. White House officials have stated they will refuse to comply with the impeachment proceedings, as the House is directing an invalid investigation.

But the House will not be stymied. In a response to the letter, Pelosi wrote: “Despite the White House’s stonewalling, we see a growing body of evidence that shows that President Trump abused his office and violated his oath to ‘protect, preserve and defend the Constitution.'"

Whether the future entails Trump’s reelection or his ousting from office, this historic impeachment inquiry is sure to be a rollercoaster — and we should all buckle up for the wild ride.