It is, and I say this almost with hope, a widespread view at RHS that Donald Trump is not someone we would pick to be America’s president. While his tweets may be amusing to us, albeit that sort of manic laugh he induces as you feel those simultaneous pangs of amusement, bewilderment and confusion, to those in America he is their reality. However not to worry, the impeachment proceedings have begun… but is it really that simple?
What is impeachment? Impeachment can be initiated by Congress and is not actually the process whereby a President can be removed (it can also be used to remove judges). It is instead a two stage process, beginning with a public inquiry in the House of Representatives and ending in a trial in Senate. It may not reach the second stage at all, from the passage of the constitution to the mid 1990s only 50 impeachment cases begun and only 1/3 of those ended got to trial. Furthermore a two thirds majority is required in the Senate to remove Trump from office.
So what did Trump do?
At a White House meeting, Trump emissaries ask top Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden, shocking US national security officials. According to multiple accounts, after ambassador Gordon Sondland makes the Biden ask, the then national security adviser, John Bolton, terminates the meeting, later calling it a “drug deal”.
The Office of Management of the Budget informs the Pentagon and state department that Trump has suspended $391m in military aid for Ukraine.
25 July – Trump speaks on the phone with Zelenskiy
Trump reminds Zelenskiy that, “the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine” and then asks for a “favour”. Trump wants Ukraine to announce investigations designed to make Joe Biden look bad and to cast doubt on Russian tampering in the 2016 US election.
So Trump attempted a ‘quid pro quo’ with the Ukrainian president, meaning he was seeking a favour for a favour.
A whistleblower complaint against Trump is secretly filed to the office of the inspector general of the intelligence community. For six weeks, the Trump administration blocks Congress from obtaining the complaint.
What happens now?
Due to the whistleblower complaint Nancy Pelosi (the speaker of the House of Representatives) then announces on the 24th September that a formal impeachment inquiry will begin accusing Trump of, “a betrayal of his oath of office, a betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections”.
However the inquiry has not been going smoothly at all, for example on the 8th October the White House released a letter refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, and accusing Democrats of trying to reverse the result of the 2016 election.
Then on Nov 1st the House voted on whether to begin a public hearing, a motion which passed 232-196. This started the public hearing, although many officials have already given evidence before Congress, for example Tim Morrison, the senior director for Russian affairs at the National Security Council, testified a day after announcing that he would resign his post.
Currently 61% of Americans believe Trump violates democratic institutions and forms.
The impeachment committees begin releasing testimony transcripts. The overlapping testimonies tell the same story, of demands by US officials of Ukraine steadily ratcheting up between May and September, from a demand to investigate corruption to a demand that “President Zelenskiy to go to a microphone and say ‘investigations’, ‘Biden’, and ‘Clinton’.”
Public impeachment hearings are scheduled to begin with the testimony of ambassador Bill Taylor and deputy assistant secretary of state George P Kent. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch is to follow on 15 November.
How can I keep up with what is going on?
The Guardian is a personal favourite and you can track the inquiry by day and all articles are saved in an almost timeline format – https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/trump-impeachment-inquiry
The BBC is also good as they have a ‘what happened this week’ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-50085952/what-happened-this-week-in-trump-s-impeachment-saga
VOX news is also very good, and it is an American news outlet so is arguably closer to the action – although it is very anti Trump but I mean, who isn’t?