Earlier this year, the House in the United States passed a resolution to formally initiate an impeachment enquiry into the conduct of President Donald Trump. The decision was brought before the House after a complaint sprung from the Republican lawmakers on the closed-door process. Along with the passing of the resolution for impeachment, the resolution also sets rules for the inquiry and signals indicating towards a transition towards a ‘more public phase’. The practice of the proceedings which were followed until now was that the testimonies of the witness remained in closed doors and more private, however, the said resolution could be a great leap ahead. It could result in a public hearing, broadcast on the television within a month and probably even a vote on the impeachment resolution by the end of the year. Briefly, the resolution allows the Adam Schiff, the Chairman, Democratic Rep. of the House Intelligence Committee to hold open hearings.
Furthermore, it also allows for the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, to call for witnesses to be invited or subpoenaed to testify. The resolution is being sought as a breakthrough as it allows the Intelligence Committee to publish redacted transcripts of closed-door depositions for the first time in history. It also directs relevant committees to report their findings to the House Judiciary Committee.
As the resolution which was passed, Schiff is directed to compile a report that summarizes the inquiry’s findings and deliver it to the House Judiciary Committee allowing it to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment or not in the said matter.
The formalization of the resolution was announced by the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying that a vote would be held to formalize the process of impeachment. Politicizing the issue, given that the resolution is passed the Republicans went ahead to say that the process ‘is already tainted beyond repair’. Here, the GOP has tremendously focused on the process of impeachment inquiry rather than delving into the details of the allegations against President Trump. It has been reported that the witnesses in the Trump case have offered ‘increasingly damning testimony’ against the US President.
The impeachment process in the United States and ‘due process’:
The Republicans raised the primary question of witnesses deposing in private as they have claimed the inquiry is ‘a sham and illegitimate’. Moreover, they also say that three House committees are leading the process in the absence of any rule or regulation in place which requires the House to hold a vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry formally. Though the provision for an impeachment inquiry is enshrined in the US Constitution, the further details of deciding upon the rules for how it’s conducted are left to be determined by the House. Therefore, the laws of an impeachment proceeding are drawn from the 2015 regulations passed by a Republican majority which allows for a series of initial interviews of witnesses in impeachment inquiries to be done privately in the closed door. The process is very similar to the way a criminal case is presented before a grand jury. What brings a cry for change in the process, earlier in favour of a closed-door process is that there has never before been a federal or congressional enquiry into allegations, before that of Trump.
Impeachment proceedings against Trump:
Allegations spurred against Trump when a whistleblower complaint came from a US intelligence official. The official, who remains anonymous, has used his office to gather material proving foreign interference in the upcoming 2020 elections. The evidence which is primary to support the said allegations against the US President Trump is a recording of a phone call dated July 25 between Trump and his Ukranian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky. The contents of the tape shows that Trump has requested Ukrainian President to initiate an investigation into the conduct of the former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden, over the work of his son for a Ukrainian natural gas company. Further, Trump is also heard on the phone call urging Zelensky to launch a probe which can influence and discredit the investigation which ongoing against Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential elections. It is believed that in response, Trump sponsored military aid to Ukraine, which is under a continuous threat of Russian aggression, estimating up to $400 million. Ukraine presently is dealing with a conflict with the pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the nation. It is being said, as revealed in the testimonies that the decision to move up the aid is a tactic by Trump to continue pressurizing Zelensky, making him launch an investigation into Biden.
Democrats in the United States continuously argue that they are avoiding to make it a ‘public spectacle’ and thus are following proper procedure. They are apprehensive of what will follow if indeed there is enough evidence brought on record to impeach Trump. On the other hand, the Republicans argue that the Democrats are flouting ‘due process’ in handling the said inquiry against US President Trump. However, there is not much legal backing to this claim. As per the Constitution of the United States, the grounds on which a President can be impeached are treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours. The process to impeach, as would be applicable in the case of Trump, would be a simple vote followed by a trial held at the Senate, currently under the control of the Republicans. Amongst the vote, to pass it will require a two-thirds majority. In the history of the United States, only two presidents- one Bill Clinton and another Andrew Johnson have been impeached, and the Senate awarded acquittal to both.
Testimony by Marie Yovanovicth, former ambassador of US:
In the ongoing trial, a top US diplomat in Ukraine and another senior State Department official testified in the first phase in the impeachment probe at the House of Representatives. In another development of the case, Marie Yovanovicth has testified as a part of the probe. She had testified that she is feeling a ‘big threat’ when Trump ousted her from the post as the US ambassador to Ukraine. Marie is the former US Ambassador. She was removed from her job during the second day of the public hearing in the impeachment inquiry. While she continued to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, Trump kept discrediting her career as a diplomat through a series of tweets. In his tweet, Trump quoted
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how that went?” he wrote, adding: “It is a US President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”
On the tweet-war, Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the committee, said that he is unable to understand what the President is trying to do. He said that the effect of this could be ‘intimidating’. The tweets of Trump has been called ‘witness intimidation’ and widely criticized by many Democrats. The testimony of Yovanovitch is crucial because she is well-known for her anti-corruption record and was posted in Ukraine in 2016 as the US ambassador, after Trump forced her out in May 2019. It is also said that she was ousted because Trump and his administration wanted to set the stage for creating a channel for conducting the Ukraine policy and pushing Kyiv to investigate into the political rivals of President to discredit his candidature.
“You were viewed as an obstacle that had to go,” Schiff told Yovanovitch in his closing remarks. “There is no camouflaging that corrupt intent.”
Key Takeaways from Yovanovitch’s testimony:
Yovanovitch said in her testimony that it was only earlier this year that she was made aware of a ‘smear campaign’ led by Trump’s personal lawyer Mr Rudy Giuliani and his son Donald Trump Jr. Soon after, she was asked to return back to the United States as the US president no longer had confidence in her. She told that her removal was because she was not giving Trump what he wanted and played into the hands of shady interests the world over. She said that this was the time when the US State Department was being ‘hollowed from within’, and was abhorrent that the leadership of the department did not realize that the attacks were not only deliberate but dangerously wrong, against her and other US diplomats. There is a mention of Yovanovitch in the phone call between Trump and his Ukranian counterpart where Trump is heard saying that Yovanovitch is “going through some things”, and that the remark of the former ambassador said that the statement sounded like a threat to her.
The call is ‘perfect’ with no ‘quid pro quo’ says Trump.
In response to the telephone call between the two world leaders, the White House has released its own version of the abridged call transcript. As per the contents, in the tape, Trump has asked Zelenskiy for a ‘favour’ regarding the investigation in a conspiracy theory about the 2016 US election as well as to investigate Joe Biden’s son. Trump sees nothing wrong with the call and said it was ‘perfect’ with no indication of any ‘quid pro quo’.