As the U.S. House conducts its inquiry into President Donald Trump’s alleged attempt to convince the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation in return for military assistance, a panel of government professors at Franklin & Marshall College provided insights into the impeachment process.
The Nov. 21 Common Hour, a community conversation each Thursday classes are in session, featured Professor of Public Affairs Terry Madonna, co-director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll, as moderator and three faculty members from the Department of Government.
“When the Founders put impeachment into the Constitution, they were reliving about 400 years of English history where Parliament and other English officials were deeply concerned about the monarch and the possible abuse of power,” Madonna said. “Particularly, and listen to this, efforts by others outside of the country to perhaps bribe the monarch.”
With a large map of Ukraine and Eastern Europe projected on the screen behind her, Associate Professor of Government Jennifer Kibbe explained the “quid”—Trump promised to release $400 million in military arms and equipment to help defend against Russia, which is waging a war that has killed 13,000 Ukrainians. She also detailed the “pro quo”—Ukraine in turn would announce an investigation into one of Trump’s potential political rivals in next year’s election, Joe Biden.
“The United States will often hold back on aid to another country to create leverage on some other issue that it wants, but those issues always revolve around issues that are in the U.S. national interest,” said Kibbe, who researches U.S. foreign policy and intelligence.
“What is crucially different in this case,” Kibbe said, “is the president is alleged to have used the foreign policy powers of the U.S. government to ask for something that was a personal political value to him. That is the line he is alleged to have crossed.”
Government Professor Matthew Schousen explained the inquiry process. The House Intelligence Committee is conducting hearings for a report to the House Judiciary Committee, which will conduct its own hearings to decide whether to files articles of impeachment, formal charges of high crimes and misdemeanors. If articles are filed, a vote by the full House follows.
“There are Democrats in the House that have been wanting to impeach President Trump since the first day he got in office,” Schousen said. “But this has not been the majority view of the Democratic Party or the leadership [of the House] under [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi. In fact, most of the Democratic Caucus has really not wanted to impeach Donald Trump.”
When Pelosi became speaker in January, she could have started impeachment proceedings, but chose not to, Schousen said. “It wasn’t until the Ukrainian issue came up that Nancy Pelosi changed her mind and said ‘Let’s go forward with impeachment.’”
Stephen Medvic is The Honorable and Mrs. John C. Kunkel Professor of Government, and like Schousen, he studies the institution of government and its political structure: parties, elections and voters. Trump’s impeachment appears certain since Democrats control the House and only a majority of members are need to impeach, Medvic said.
Whether the Senate votes to remove Trump from office is questionable, maybe doubtful, he said. Republicans control the chamber, and a two-thirds vote is needed to convict. Since public support is critical for Trump’s re-election – and the public is divided on the issue of impeachment – Medvic suggested looking at one particular set of data.
“I think the metric to really look at is the president’s approval rating,” Medvic said. “To me, that’s the number to look at if impeachment is going to have any impact on the election.”