President Donald Trump is an imperfect head of state, to say the least. He has made sexist comments about women (some of which were infamously caught on tape), as well as racist remarks about Mexican, Haitian and African immigrants.
He has made over 15,000 “false or misleading claims” since his inauguration, according to The Washington Post. He has mocked, bullied and insulted his political rivals. And recent congressional investigations have made it clear that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win reelection.
Despite all these misdeeds, however, the most important question is whether Trump has done anything to warrant impeachment. For Democrats, the answer is that he absolutely has: On Dec. 18, the House of Representatives, currently controlled by Democrats, voted to approve two articles of impeachment against him.
The first article charges Trump with abuse of power. Democrats claim that when the president, in a July 25 phone call, said to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that “I would like you to do us a favor,” he put his personal interests above those of the United States. At the time, the American government had withheld nearly $400 million in crucial military aid for Ukraine. In the call, Trump asked Zelenskiy to dig up damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. The elder Biden is one of Trump’s chief political rivals in the 2020 presidential race.
“It is an impeachable offense for the president to exercise the powers of public office to obtain an improper personal gain while ignoring or injuring the national interest,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, as he announced the charges against Trump.
The second article of impeachment alleges obstruction of Congress. “When the House investigated and opened an impeachment inquiry, President Trump engaged in unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry,” Nadler said.
The impeachment hearings have revealed that the president is prepared to do whatever it takes to get reelected. “We followed the president’s orders,” said Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, during one of the hearings. Sondland acknowledged that he acted on Trump’s instructions when he pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden, the president’s political rival.
The proposed quid pro quo worked like this: If the Ukrainian government announced an investigation into the Bidens, Kyiv would receive the military aid it needed and Zelenskiy himself would receive a much sought-after White House meeting with Trump.
The July 25 phone call, which Trump later called “perfect,” proved to serve as compelling evidence for congressional Democrats to finally impeach him. “The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House. Pelosi believes, as do many of Trump’s critics, that he won the 2016 presidential election with help from Russia and that he intended to do the same again in 2020 with the help of Ukraine.
The politics, however, continue to favor the president. The Republican-controlled Senate will almost certainly acquit Trump on the impeachment charges approved by the Democratic House.
So why did the Democrats impeach now, instead of leaving voters to decide Trump’s fate in the next election on Nov. 3, 2020?
Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has so far provided the best response to this important question. To hold off on the impeachment, Schiff recently argued, would be tantamount to letting the president cheat again: “Why don’t you just let him cheat in one more election? Why not let him cheat just one more time? Why not let him have foreign help just one more time?”
Unless a political earthquake shakes the souls of a few Republican Senators, Trump will not be removed from office; instead, he will indeed get his way one more time.
It’s hard to tell how much the impeachment process will influence the 2020 election. Will voters forget about all this, the same way most turned a deaf ear to Trump’s sexism and racism in 2016?
When it comes to Trump, there’s no point in trying to make predictions. The truth is we get things wrong almost every time.
But ultimately I believe that neither history nor the American people will be so generous toward this president. Even if the Senate acquits him, Trump will forever bear a black mark: Americans will remember him as the president who lied, bullied and cheated his way to the White House.