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Will President Trump Be Impeached?

Much controversy has engulfed the White House since his Inauguration, but what is the likelihood of an actual impeachment?

Portrait+of+President+Donald+J.+Trump%2C+45th+President+of+the+United+States.
Portrait of President Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States.

Portrait of President Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States.

Photo by Creative Commons

Photo by Creative Commons

Portrait of President Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States.

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In recent news, there has been much discussion regarding the impeachment process of the current President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. Ever since his inauguration on January 20, 2017, great controversy has emerged surrounding the actions he has undertook during his first 100 days in office, not only in the United States, but throughout the whole global community. Trump’s decisions have left many questioning his position as the president of this country. In fact, a recent survey done by FiveThirtyEight this week revealed that Trump’s approval rating had plunged down to 39.2 percent, a historically lowest presidential approval rating since 1953. With such high criticism, it was only logical for the American people to begin thinking about the impeachment of their current president.

In order to further analyze this topic, one must understand what impeachment is in the first place. According to the Legal Dictionary, impeachment is a process that is used to charge, try and remove public officials while in office. Impeachment has always been a constitutional power of the Congress, and was put in place to combat the corruption of any federal officeholder. However, this process is one that requires tremendous toil and time. As stated by the U.S. Constitution, impeachment begins with the House of Representatives, in which members vote upon the articles of impeachment. If simple majority is passed (218 votes), the resolution would then proceed to the Senate. In this situation, the Senate would organize itself into a trial, terminating with the voting of whether or not to remove the president from office. A 2/3 majority is necessary for the final conviction. Only then would the president finally be dismissed.

One significant aspect to analyze is what it takes to qualify a federal official for impeachment. According to Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution, “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” As brought up by  Presidential Impeachment: The Legal Standard and Procedure, the conditions needed for impeachment are extremely vague and indefinite. Is it up to the interpretation of the Congress? Is something as serious as an “indictable crime” required? Or does a simple misdemeanor or neglect of duty mean impeachment? The various interpretations of this statement has provided a huge contribution to the controversy over this issue.

In the past, only two United States presidents have been successfully impeached by the House, though neither were removed from office. The first president to be impeached in America’s 241 years of history was Andrew Johnson. As the 17th president, he had violated the Tenure of Office Act by firing his Secretary of War without Senate approval. More recently was the impeachment of Bill Clinton in response to the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. Not only did Clinton allegedly mislead the grand jury about his affair, he had also persuaded others to lie about it as well. Though only these two American presidents have actually been impeached, the most famous (or infamous) example regarding this topic was arguably former President Richard Nixon. After the 1972 Watergate Scandal in which Nixon had broken into the Democratic Party’s headquarters, Nixon had been certain to be both impeached and convicted of his crimes. However, he had hastily resigned before he could even be prosecuted by the Congress.

So, why all the talk about Trump’s impeachment? Throughout his now four months in office, there have been multiple instances that have caused some to see Trump as a danger to the American government. For starters, Trump had asked former FBI Director James Comey to back off the investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser. According to an Independent news update, Flynn had suggested to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that sanctions on Russia could be eased once Trump became president. He had also worked as a lobbyist for Turkey, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars under Ekim Alptekim, who is infamously known for having past business dealings with you guessed it! – Vladmir Putin. Throughout the FBI investigation of Flynn, the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia had gradually intensified into a harsh reality. Events including the resignation of Flynn under immense pressure and President Trump’s exchange of “I hope you can let this go” in Comey’s memo have only further raised suspicion concerning the irresolute relationship between Russia and the Trump administration.

Inevitably, this situation had to escalate even further. On May 9, 2017, President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey with alleged “clear recommendations” from the attorney general and deputy attorney general. However, in a meeting with Russian diplomats two weeks ago covered by The New York Times, Trump was quoted saying, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Why did Trump really fire Comey?

Adding to the potential Russian involvement in the current administration is President Trump’s personal and business holdings in the United States and abroad. As stated by Impeach Trump Now, several of these present conflicts of interest, especially with regards to the U.S. Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause. This was created with the intent to prevent foreign influence or corruption. According to this clause, emoluments from foreign governments can include “any conferral of a benefit or advantage, whether through money, objects, titles, offices, or economically valuable waivers or relaxations of otherwise applicable requirements,” even including “ordinary, fair market value transactions that result in any economic profit or benefit to the federal officeholder.” Consequently, many of Trump’s extensive business dealings with foreign governments, businesses and leaders go against this clause, and President Trump has been violating the Foreign Emoluments ban ever since he took office. Several examples of Trump’s foreign business arrangements include Trump Tower Century City in the Philippines, the Commercial Bank of China’s relations with Trump Tower, and the recent construction of two Trump Towers in Istanbul.

Furthermore, President Trump has also been accused of violating other bans including the Domestic Emoluments Clause and a clause in the General Services Administration. In the former, the clause provides that, “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.” Even after his inauguration, President Trump has continued to own businesses that receive government subsidies and tax breaks, which is in clear violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause. In regards to the latter, Trump’s unremitting lease of Washington, D.C.’s Old Post Office containing Trump International Hotel violates the GSA’s ban of elected government officials from participating in this lease.

Besides these reasons listed, there are several further supplements to this argument, though many controversial. For example, President Trump has been accused of leaking highly classified information to Russian officials. According to a recent Post report, Trump allegedly told Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov about spying by a US partner that had revealed an Islamic State plot involving laptop computers and airplanes. Though the White House came out to call the report false on Monday evening, Trump later tweeted, “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.” This could potentially put American lives at risk and strain America’s relationships with other countries. Though some may argue that this is a clear violation of his oath of office, the president ultimately has the constitutional power to decide what information is considered classified and can discuss U.S. intelligence with whomever he wants.

With all said and done, the process of impeachment is not an easy process. It’s very likely that President trump will not be impeached anytime soon, especially with the current Republican dominated Congress. As of now, 238 of the 435 House members and 54 of the 100 Senate members are Republican. But who knows? As we have seen multiple times in the past, anything is possible in the world of politics. In a recent poll done by Reuters/Ipsos, the DailyKos reported Trump’s approval rating in the Republican Party sank from 83 to 75 percent, a record low during the course of his 4 month administration. To add on, members of the House of Representatives only serve two-year terms, so there may be a opportunity for Democrats to take over the House in the 2018 elections.

However, what is of most notable significance is the fact that several U.S. cities have already begun to call for Trump’s impeachment. As of this Tuesday, ten cities including Cambridge, Amherst, Pelham,  Leverett and Brookline in Massachusetts, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Richmond and Alameda in California, along with members of the Chicago City Council have already communicated their support for resolutions looking into the impeachment process. In a new Independent article, Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar was found stating, “Donald Trump is a racist, a bigot, and a misogynist, and he is attempting to enact policies around his beliefs. But that’s not why I introduced the resolution…[he] continues to obstruct the investigation into Russian influence over his administration, in his business dealings, and the alleged collusion during the 2016 election.” The public will certainly have to watch the news carefully in the coming weeks for additional information on these U.S. cities.

To end off with something to think about, what would happen in the situation where Trump was actually impeached? Immediately after Trump’s removal from office, Vice President Mike Pence would take the oath of office and become the new President of the United States. Nevertheless, it is important to allude to the high controversy surrounding Pence as well. Many of his beliefs, including his opposition to abortion and gay marriage, or even his denial of climate change and the significance of racism in law enforcement have caused turmoil to the millions of Americans who believe the contrary. This just further adds to the low probability of Trump’s impeachment. Now in the extremely unlikely case where Pence was to go down with Trump, the presidency would then fall to the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. However, because no American president has ever been removed from office up to this point, the events that would follow this situation would be quite unpredictable. Politics is a dangerous game to play- only time will tell…

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Will President Trump Be Impeached?