By Brendan Maher
Tension has been growing in the United States since House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in late September that formal impeachment proceedings would be sought against President Donald Trump. There is a national conversation about impeachment, taking place in homes, in the workplace, and in the halls of universities.
Saint Vincent College is one of these places where debates and conversations on the subject are very much alive. At the center of the debate lies two questions: Did Donald Trump withhold aid to Ukraine in order to motivate its government to investigate rival 2020 candidate Joe Biden? And if so, is that an impeachable offense?
Megan Miller, an officer of the College Democrats group, said that she believes the accusations against Trump are true.
She said this is a serious story young people should follow closely, as they can have a significant impact on the world, but only if they are well informed.
“It’s our country, it’s our future, and we can’t afford to not care about [impeachment],” she said.
However, Miller also said that the matter must be investigated.
“Impeaching him without looking into the accusation isn’t lawful. I believe an impeachment inquiry is necessary,” she stated.
A major part of this national discussion is how an impeachment inquiry would affect Trump’s chances at reelection.
Miller said she would hope that it would hurt his chances, but worries that others might see it differently.
“If someone believes that the inquiry unfairly targeted Mr. Trump, then they may vote for him a second time just to prove a point,” she said.
In turn, Saagar Patel, president of the College Republicans, had different views.
“I’m not sure that what was done was entirely ethical,” he said. “[But] whether it was coincidence or otherwise, I don’t think that itself is impeachable.”
A common analysis of the situation in the U.S. House suggests that Trump will be impeached, as the Democratic party is currently the majority, though will not be removed from office.
Patel said he does not think Trump will be impeached since too many representatives will be afraid of hurting their chances at reelection by voting to do so.
Impeachment is a many step process, Patel said, which does not necessarily lead to the removal of office; understanding this topic is vital.
Nathan Orlando, assistant professor of political science, cleared up some misconceptions about impeachment, which he said “is always a serious matter, although it can be a bit of a nebulous concept.”
Orlando explained that politically, impeachment is a very grave accusation and that this is only the fifth time impeachment proceedings have been commenced against a U.S. President.
“Of the previous four, two were impeached and one resigned from office before the House could vote,” he said.
Orlando stated that while the “current [U.S.] impeachment process is neither necessarily ‘fair’ nor ‘reasonable,’ as [people put it], that does not mean it should be altered.”
Orlando went on to explain the benefits of the Constitution’s vagueness on impeachment.
“The founders were predicting the unpredictable,” Orlando stated. By making the terms vague, he said, a document written two hundred and thirty-two years ago can still work to protect our republic.
Nowadays, one particularly disturbing observation, he said, is the sheer partisan behavior being acted out on both the left and right.
“You can see this in how representatives on both sides have already pledged their vote before the inquiry has had a chance to do its due diligence,” Orlando stated. “But the genius of the system is that the House of Representatives can only impeach a president. The Constitution provides for checks on this check, as it were.”
Orlando stated that it is important to remember that, while impeachment may sound ominous, it just means the bringing of formal charges against an official. An impeachment inquiry acts very much like a grand jury, he said, and it is the Senate that then behaves as a court, with the chief justice of the Supreme Court acting as a presiding judge to determine if the President should be removed or not.
When it to comes to the fate of the president, Orlando stated that Trump is hostage to the same news cycle as every other person. Seemingly each day, he said, a new piece of evidences either surfaces or is discredited.
Orlando said that he believes if the House were to vote today, it would vote along partisan lines and impeach Trump. Afterward, the Senate would then likely vote along partisan lines and save him from removal.
However, he said, it is important to note that some House Democrats claim that more is needed in order impeach the president, while some Senate Republicans say they are ready to remove him.
Each day brings more depth to this story, and as with any major controversy in American politics, it will one day simply be a historical event. For now, though, most college-age Americans are engaged in what is likely their first witness of a presidential impeachment inquiry.