Erin Schaff / The New York Times

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)announced that the House of Representatives would be launching a formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump in response to allegations that he attempted to enlist the help of foreign powers in a bid for political gain.

September 25, 2019

‘Cutting to the Core of Abuse of Power,’ Professors and Student Leaders Grapple with Trump Impeachment Inquiry

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On Wednesday, the White House released a highly-anticipated memorandum of President Donald Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the subject of a formal impeachment inquiry announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday.

The launch of an impeachment inquiry comes after this weekend’s revelation that President Trump requested damaging information from the Ukraine government about presidential candidate Joe Biden. The memorandum, a non-verbatim transcript, confirms this. Late Wednesday, the whistle-blower complaint which ignited the impeachment effort was sent to the House after attempts by the White House to contain it.

Prof. Douglas Kriner, government, told The Sun just how damning he believes this revelation is. Trump’s conduct, Kriner said, “cuts to the very core of abuse of power envisioned as a ground for impeachment by the framers.”

A motion to impeach formally begins the process to remove a sitting president. The judiciary committee, chaired by Representative Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), may pass a resolution of impeachment, including the accused offenses, before it is debated and voted on by the House as a whole. Once a majority of the House passes the resolution of impeachment, the measure goes to the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required to convict the President.

Impeachment has “no legal standard,” according to Prof. David Bateman, government. The process is meant to be entirely political –– not “partisan or tawdry,” Bateman said, but considering “whether the president’s actions have harmed the polity.”

As of 11 p.m. on Wednesday, 215 representatives in the House had publicly voiced their support for an impeachment inquiry, according to The New York Times. 218 would constitute a simple majority.

President Trump, in a Wednesday press conference, called the inquiry “a joke.” He questioned, “Impeachment for that?” According to Kriner, the answer is likely in the affirmative.

“The President unequivocally asked a foreign power to investigate a political rival. That alone is deeply troubling and arguably an impeachable offense,” Kriner said.

“I remain confident in our democratic institutions and would urge patience as we wait for more facts to emerge,” Isaac Schorr ’20, president of Cornell Republicans, told The Sun. “Given the reality that the President will not be convicted by the Senate, I do wonder about the efficacy of beginning such a divisive process.”

Cornell Democrats President Jaia Clingham-David ’20 questioned the President’s actions and gladly welcomed the inquiry.

“It is extremely worrying that President Trump is potentially abusing his diplomatic powers to pressure the Ukrainian president into meddling in domestic affairs for his own political gain,” Clingham-David said.

“It is important to start an impeachment inquiry given the current American-Ukrainian relations and the growing list of Trump’s corrupt activity, and I support efforts to hold him accountable,” she continued.

Bateman explained that currently there is no set timeline, and it all depends on what documents — if any — are discovered during the inquiry.

“I am afraid no one knows the timeline right now — it could happen relatively quickly, but I think a safer bet is that the committees will now use the additional leverage they have (and the fear in the administration) to get documents they have been trying to get for a while,” he wrote to The Sun. “How damning these are, and how damning the whistleblower report is, will determine the pace and content of any steps beyond the inquiry.”