Questions that are answered in this summary: (4-minute read)
- What caused the push to impeach Trump?
- Who was involved?
- What do Democrats and Republicans think?
- How did it affect American society?
1: What caused the push to impeach Trump?
On July 25, 2019, Trump made a phone call to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and asked him to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, the frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. At the time, Hunter was an executive for a Ukrainian natural gas company.
By then, Trump had already frozen $400 million in aid which was designated for Ukraine (here’s a link in case you’re curious about why Ukraine needed that much funding in the first place).
When a whistle-blower within Trump’s office approached the media in early September, Democratic Senators and Representatives quickly supported the start of the impeachment process because they claimed that he was unjustly using his position as president to improve his chances of re-election.
The trial began in the Democrat-majority House of Representatives, where Trump was impeached with a vote of about 230 (yes) – 197 (no). However, the Republican-majority Senate voted to acquit Trump on a vote of 48 (yes) – 52 (no).
2: Who was involved?
Rudy Giuliani: Before Trump’s infamous phone call, he sent Giuliani, his personal lawyer, to Ukraine. Democrats claim that he was looking for damaging information about Joe and Hunter Biden, while Trump and the Republicans say that he went to investigate corruption in the country.
Witnesses: Once the impeachment trial had begun in the House of Representatives, multiple foreign relations officials between America and Ukraine participate in the trial as witnesses. Some of the most important ones listed being Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador with Ukraine; Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine; and Tim Morrison, the former National Security Council Advisor. Some of the witnesses claimed Trump took control of their jobs as he made decisions they did not support (like Yovanovitch), while others claim that he acted without consulting experts on Ukrainian affairs (like Taylor). Nevertheless, all of the witnesses agree that Trump’s actions were unconstitutional.
John Bolton: Many consider Bolton to be the key witness of Trump’s talks with Ukraine because his position as National Security Advisor to Trump allowed him to listen in on many of his conversations about and with Ukraine. Even so, Bolton was absent during the House Impeachment trial. He said he would testify in the Senate impeachment trial and claimed to have evidence that had not yet been revealed by other witnesses, but the Senate voted against incorporating witnesses into the Senate Trial with a vote of 49 (yes) – 51 (no).
GOP Party: This was a term thrown around by the media during the trial; it means “Grand Old Party” and refers to the Republican party as a whole. The media was able to use this term to group all Republican lawmakers so effectively because all of them had the same views and opinions about the trial and its outcome.
Mitch McConnell: McConnell, a Republican, is the Senate majority leader. Although he is supposed to be an impartial jury chairman, he openly admitted that he was “not an impartial juror” and went on to say that “There is no chance the President is going to be removed from office.”
3: What do Democrats and Republicans think?
Republicans: The GOP senators had multiple arguments to defend the president. First of all, they point to Zelensky, who says Trump did not threaten him. Second, they claim that although Trump’s decisions were wrong, they were not impeachable. Third, their most outspoken argument, is that he was working to fight corruption in Ukraine, and the Bidens were simply a part of their investigation; Giuliani claims to have gone to Ukraine for this very reason.
Throughout the impeachment process, besides making unjustified comments like calling the impeachment a hoax, President Trump raised a few valid questions that weaken the Democrats’ argument: The Democrats have been trying to impeach him since his first day in office, so what is different now? And how is he supposed to deal with a time-consuming trial while simultaneously leading one of the most powerful countries in the world?
Democrats: The Democratic senators stand by their original claim: Trump should bear the consequences for using his executive position to boost his personal agenda.
4. How did it affect American society?
Former Republican Senator Jeff Flake, whose harsh criticism of Trump led to Flake’s low approval ratings and decision to avoid running for a second term, said that “at least 35” GOP senators out of the current 53 would cross party lines to vote against Trump had the voting been anonymous, and that could likely be said about Democrat voting as well. But only one senator from either side voted against his own party, meaning the fact that fellow lawmakers and potential voters can see everyone’s ballot changed the senators’ decision.
Because of the hard partisan lines that plague this country. Both Republican and Democratic senators fear they will be ridiculed if they cross party lines during the trial, which could lead to them losing re-elections due to a lack of support from their core voters.
Therefore, this court case could not even be called a trial, for it lacked impartial jurors, witnesses, and even evidence. The “impartial jurors” served their own party rather than their objective judgement. These “impartial jurors” voted against having any witnesses and additional evidence in the proceedings, the most basic elements of a court trial.
So what did this infamous trial teach American society? Just how highly politicians held their political future above their moral conscience.
The main 3 things to know about Trump’s impeachment trial are:
- Trump was accused of the unconstitutional act of using his position as President of the US to gather damaging information on his political opponent, Joseph Biden. The whistle-blower claimed the President froze $400 million of necessary funds to Ukraine and told their President that he will send the money only if Ukraine can “dig up dirt” on Biden’s son, who serves on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
- Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives (Democrat-majority), but when the case was passed onto the Senate (Republican-majority), he was acquitted after a trial without witnesses.
- Most Republicans voted to keep Trump, whereas all Democrats voted to impeach him. Nearly all lawmakers stayed within party lines because voting was public, so they did not want to upset their core voters.