As Impeachment Hearings go Public, A Refresher On How We Got Here

Viraj Shankar

This Wednesday, the US House of Representatives moved the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump to the public eye. The action is just the latest in a rapid string of events that has unraveled in the last month. The fast-paced nature of the inquiry can often be hard to follow, so here’s a quick summary on what you need to know about our nation’s 4th impeachment inquiry in its nearly 250 years of existence.

In a now infamous phone call held in July of 2019, Ukranian President Volodymr Zelensky asked Donald Trump for more military aid to counter Russian aggression in the eastern part of Ukraine. Trump responded to him by saying, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” This is the part where the quid pro quo—otherwise known as a favor for a favorcomes in. Trump goes on to detail two inquiries that he would like Ukraine to conduct: One into a DNC server potentially operated by Ukraine, and another into the Bidens’ business dealings in Ukraine. After Zelensky respectfully tries to work his way around the request, Trump goes on to explain that he’d like Zelensky to talk to his personal attorney, Rudy Gulianni. 

On September 24, 2019, Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched an impeachment inquiry against Trump after a flurry of revelations transpired surrounding the Trump-Zelensky phone call. The inquiry, while relatively narrow in scope, serves to investigate potential abuses of power by Trump and his associates during his time in office.

Since then, the White House has decried the inquiry as a “witch hunt”, with Trump at first stating that there was no “quid pro quo”. However, Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, later contradicted him when he told reporters that this was merely Trump’s way of foreign policy and to “get over it”, thus subtly admitting that quid pro quo had, in fact, transpired. To this day, however, Trump has maintained that his phone call was a “perfect call”.

Congressional Republicans had originally been fairly quiet on the allegations of abuse of power, but have since crafted a more full-throated defense of the President. For weeks, they attacked the processes in which the inquiry was being conducted by Democrats, as most testimonies were held behind closed doors. But on Wednesday, hearings moved into the public spotlight, leaving Republicans to hash together new defenses. A leaked Republican memo released this week urged GOP members to emphasize that Trump did not put any explicit pressure on Ukraine, and that Ukraine was not aware of any potential aid being withheld in the first place, thus questioning the quid pro quo accusations made by Democrats.

All of this comes as Pelosi has sharpened her focus against the president, explicitly pointing to charges of bribery, which are constitutionally defined as an impeachable offense. As more testimonies, subpoenas, and revelations are expected in the weeks to come, it seems that the move to make the inquiry public has merely marked the end of the beginning of this impeachment inquiry, and not the beginning of the end.

Personal Note: This nation is headed for a tumultuous period in our history. But I urge everyone, regardless of political affiliation, or even country, to pay attention to this inquiry. Whatever the outcome may be, our civic responsibilities should define this process. We must be respectful, observant, and engaged as this inquiry goes forward. And we must remain committed to the process of law, for the future of this country, and, for the future of the world.

For more information on the impeachment process, check out these sources:

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