Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Sept. 24, involving alleged abuses of power. The inquiry has resulted in intense backlash from President Trump and has incited a formal investigation into the events surrounding a phone conversation between Trump and Ukranian President Vladimry Zelenski.
“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said as she announced the impeachment inquiry to the nation on Sept. 24. The issue under investigation is a phone conversation between Trump and Zelenski. In the conversation, a redacted transcript of which was released by the Trump administration shortly after Pelosi’s announcement, Trump asks Zelenski to look into information regarding a potential past offense of Joe Biden, the former Vice President and current democratic frontrunner for the 2020 presidential election.
Specifically, he says in the call “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.” The prosecution referred to was the Ukranian prosecution of the oil company Burisma Holdings in 2016, of which Biden’s son Hunter was on the Board of Directors. The company was under investigation for corruption by Viktor Shokin, the former Ukranian Prosecutor General who unsuccessfully attempted to tackle Ukranian corruption. On a Vice-Presidential anti-corruption visit to Ukraine, Biden pressured the Ukranian government to dismiss Shokin on account of his failure to meaningfully tackle corruption, an action complicated by his son’s position in the under-investigation Burisma Holdings. In the phone call, Trump asked Zelenski to look into Biden’s role in ending this prosecution.
The phone-call was brought to government attention by an anonymous whistle-blower, who filed a formal complaint against what they perceived as illegal or questionable activity, using the transcript as evidence for what they viewed as wider manipulation and illegal influence with Ukraine.
The inquiry progresses with Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, at the helm. As the aggressive investigation continues, tension between the Democratic-led House and the White House is apparent. On Oct. 4, the House subpoenaed the White House for documents related to the impeachment inquiry, following through with a threat made earlier in the week through Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-MD, Head of the Oversight Committee
In response to the impeachment inquiry, Trump accused the whistleblower, Pelosi, and Schiff of various allegations. Chief among these is an allegation that Schiff aided the whistleblower in writing the filed complaint, an allegation based loosely upon the fact that the whistleblower did meet with House Intelligence Committee Staff before submitting the report. Schiff denies any direct involvement with the whistleblower or knowledge of the exact complaint before he became a part of the inquiry.
Since Pelosi’s announcement, Trump has spoken out avidly on Twitter in response to the inquiry, calling it the “Greatest Witch Hunt in the history of our Country!” and saying “All the Do Nothing Democrats are focused on is Impeaching the President for having a very good conversation with the Ukrainian President.” He has further targeted Pelosi and Schiff. His anger was evident in a news conference with visiting Finnish President Sauli Väinämö, on Oct. 2, in which he called Schiff “treasonous” and said Pelosi “Hands out subpoenas like cookies.”
According to Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, a removal from office due to impeachment requires “Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” If the impeachment inquiry succeeds, it will be brought to the House of Representatives, in which a majority vote will result in formal impeachment. The decision will then be shifted to the Senate, where a two-thirds majority vote will result in the removal of the president from office.