On Sept. 26, 2019, a whistleblower complaint was filed against President Donald Trump for abusing his presidential power in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump was trying to instigate an investigation focused on corruption that would implicate potential democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden. This complaint started the impeachment process against Trump as he was involving a foreign country in the internal election process of the United States.
“I think he should have been impeached a long time ago,” said Finn Conte, a Guilford student. “I think he has broken a lot of laws and that he has done a lot of things that are unconstitutional.”
In impeachment proceedings, the House of Representatives charges the president with an illegal offense and investigates allegations while the Senate has the power to convict the president of a crime with a two-thirds majority vote. Although the current Senate holds 53 Republicans and 45 Democrats (as well as two independents), fractures in the Republican Party could spell disaster for Trump.
Recently, on Oct. 6, another anonymous whistleblower came forward, reportedly possessing additional information about the phone call between Trump and Zelensky. The second whistleblower also claims to have first-hand knowledge about the initial complaint document.
As a result of these two whistleblower complaints, the impeachment process has deepened divisions within the Republican Party. Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) both criticized Trump’s actions.
“By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling,” Romney said via Twitter.
Trump fired an insulting tweet back at Romney: “Mitt Romney never knew how to win. He is a pompous ‘ass’ who has been fighting me from the beginning, except when he begged me for my endorsement for his Senate run (I gave it to him), and when he begged me to be Secretary of State (I didn’t give it to him). He is so bad for R’s.”
This clash on social media may have wide implications. Wilson Haworth, a senior at Guilford, provided his opinion on the matter.
“I honestly don’t know. I’ve seen Thom Tillis (Junior Senator from North Carolina) say similar things and then change their opinion the next day,” said Haworth. “Frankly, I don’t have any real faith that Republicans will actually hold the president accountable.”
Aside from Trump’s involvement in the phone call, his tweets are furthering political tensions. Ramya Krishna, a senior at Guilford, stated her view on this issue.
“I think Trump’s tweets are already contributing to the split in the Republican Party, not necessarily because of the ideological content of those tweets, but rather due to the distinctly blunt format that is inevitable when you only have 280 characters to declare your statements,” Krishna said.
In past history, there have only been two presidents that have been impeached, but both were not removed from office. With these precedents in mind, many do not believe that Trump’s presidential term will be cut short.
“I feel like people don’t realize that once someone is impeached, the Senate still has to vote to remove him,” said Conte. “You still need the government to agree on it, and there are so many die hard Trump people in the government I don’t know how that would be.”
If Trump were impeached, Mike Pence, the current vice president, would step into the role of the president. Conte explained his view on this prospect.
“I think it would be worse,” said Conte. “I don’t think it would be significantly worse because they both have the same sort of advisors in their ear. But, I think Pence has enough political experience to make him a threat, where Trump is short of a buffoon.”
Others believe that Trump holds enough support to avoid impeachment.
“According to how people have voted in the past, I think that politicians who have roots in white nationalism, or even just anti-immigration policies, will express a lot of support for Trump, along with members of the ‘Religious Right’,” Krishna said. “I don’t have much confidence in that, given that moderate Republicans were a big part of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.”
However, Republicans are becoming more critical of Trump, which is exemplified by reactions to Trump’s actions in Syria.
“I think he’s putting the nation at risk … and I think he’s putting his presidency at risk,” tweeted Lindsey Graham.
While dissension in the Republican Party continues to grow, it is still likely that the majority of the Senate will support Trump rather than remove him from office because of the party loyalty and shared beliefs on national and international issues.
Editor’s note: This story originally was published in Volume 106, Issue 3 of The Guilfordian on Oct. 18, 2019.