NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Impeachment moves forward as Speaker Nancy Pelosi solemnly backs official inquiry

This after­noon, Speak­er of the House Nan­cy Pelosi announced an offi­cial impeach­ment inquiry into Indi­vid­ual Num­ber One — Don­ald Trump.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Speak­er of the House Nan­cy Pelosi address­es atten­dees at the 2019 Cal­i­for­nia Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty State Con­ven­tion at the George R. Moscone Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in San Fran­cis­co, Cal­i­for­nia. (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Just after 5 PM East­ern, Pelosi deliv­ered a short speech in sup­port of impeach­ment at the Capi­tol to a room absolute­ly packed full of reporters and tele­vi­sion cam­eras.

Pelosi’s action comes in the midst of an evolv­ing scan­dal involv­ing Don­ald Trump, the Pres­i­dent of Ukraine, Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter.

For months, Trump­world has become fix­at­ed on a com­plex con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry – ped­dled main­ly by Rudy Giu­liani, Trump’s sur­ro­gate and per­son­al lawyer – that cen­ters on a 2015 vis­it then-Vice Pres­i­dent Biden made to Kiev.

Trump’s cronies claim that Biden used his posi­tion to influ­ence Ukrain­ian law­mak­ers to fire the country’s chief pros­e­cu­tor Vik­tor Shokin, in order to pro­tect Hunter Biden’s Ukrain­ian busi­ness part­ners from cor­rup­tion inves­ti­ga­tions. You can read the details of this con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, and the real truth behind the sto­ry, here.

Trump’s allies have been using this sto­ry to throw shade at Biden, who Trump seems to con­sid­er his most like­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger, for months.

Speak­er Pelosi’s deci­sion to throw her sup­port behind an impeach­ment inquiry comes amid reports that Don­ald Trump him­self mis­used his author­i­ty to solic­it for­eign assis­tance for his 2020 reelec­tion cam­paign.

The scan­dal began when reports emerged that a whistle­blow­er from a U.S. intel­li­gence agency had expressed seri­ous con­cerns about a call between Trump and a for­eign leader. That leader turned out to Volodymyr Zelen­skiy, the new­ly-elect­ed Pres­i­dent of Ukraine, who Trump called on July 25th.

In that con­ver­sa­tion, Trump alleged­ly pressed Zelen­skiy to inves­ti­gate Hunter Biden. Trump has admit­ted that Biden was dis­cussed dur­ing the call.

An inquiry cen­ter­ing on Hunter Biden would, in the­o­ry, also ensnare Joe Biden and – accord­ing to many Repub­li­cans’ cal­cu­la­tions – there­by harm the top Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date cam­paign­ing to dis­place Trump in Novem­ber of next year.

Giv­ing cre­dence to the idea that Trump pres­sured Zelen­skiy into inves­ti­gat­ing the Bidens is report­ing that Trump ordered that $400 mil­lion in U.S. mil­i­tary aid be held back from Ukraine before his call to Zelen­skiy.

This would have cre­at­ed an obvi­ous quid pro quo sit­u­a­tion for the Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent. Ukraine has been bogged down in a qua­si-war against Russ­ian-backed sep­a­ratist mil­i­tants in the east of the coun­try since 2014.

Nan­cy Pelosi’s deci­sion to pro­ceed with an offi­cial impeach­ment inquiry fol­lows months of lob­by­ing by pro­gres­sive activists in sup­port of impeach­ment.

For Pelosi, though, Trump’s lat­est mis­con­duct appears to have been the cat­a­lyst for choos­ing this moment to make a pub­lic pro­nounce­ment for impeach­ment.

“For the past sev­er­al months, we have been inves­ti­gat­ing in our com­mit­tees and lit­i­gat­ing in the courts so the House can gath­er all the rel­e­vant facts and con­sid­er whether to exer­cise its full Arti­cle I pow­ers, includ­ing a con­sti­tu­tion­al pow­er of the utmost grav­i­ty, approval of arti­cles of impeach­ment,” Pelosi said.

“And this week, the pres­i­dent has admit­ted to ask­ing the pres­i­dent of Ukraine to take actions which would ben­e­fit him polit­i­cal­ly.”

“The actions of the Trump pres­i­den­cy revealed dis­hon­or­able fact of the president’s betray­al of his oath of office, betray­al of our nation­al secu­ri­ty, and betray­al of the integri­ty of our elec­tions. There­fore, today, I’m announc­ing the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives is mov­ing for­ward with an offi­cial impeach­ment inquiry. I’m direct­ing our six com­mit­tees to pro­ceed with their inves­ti­ga­tions under that umbrel­la of impeach­ment inquiry. The pres­i­dent must be held account­able.”

“No one is above the law,” she added.

Repub­li­cans are already mis­char­ac­ter­iz­ing Pelosi’s move as sim­ply the lat­est stage in a “witch hunt” against Trump. How­ev­er, many appeared sur­prised by her announce­ment, hav­ing not expect­ed it to come today.

Trump has respond­ed to the news in his usu­al man­ner, with a series of tweets claim­ing, “NO quid pro quo!” and “Pres­i­den­tial Harass­ment!

Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, on the oth­er hand, cheered the move, with Tom Stey­er, Beto O’Rourke, Eliz­a­beth War­ren and oth­ers applaud­ing Pelosi.

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee also gave its full back­ing to Pelosi’s move.

“I stand with Speak­er Pelosi and House Democ­rats as they move for­ward with this impeach­ment inquiry,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez.

“Based on the president’s own admis­sion, he has com­mit­ted a gross abuse of pow­er. Con­gress has an oblig­a­tion to thor­ough­ly inves­ti­gate this mat­ter and oth­er wrong­do­ing; any­thing less would be an abdi­ca­tion of its con­sti­tu­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ty to serve as a check on the exec­u­tive branch.”

“Don­ald Trump has made count­less promis­es to the Amer­i­can peo­ple, but he’s proven that he’s only capa­ble of serv­ing him­self — and that there is no line he won’t cross to do so. Amer­i­cans are tired of it, and they deserve bet­ter.”

“Democ­rats are fight­ing day in and day out to expand access to health care, raise wages, help the Amer­i­can work­er, and uphold the rule of law. That is our promise to Amer­i­ca – and unlike this pres­i­dent, we keep our promis­es.”

Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors from the Pacif­ic North­west were also sup­port­ive.

“I sup­port Speak­er Pelosi’s deci­sion to ini­ti­ate a for­mal impeach­ment inquiry,” said Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell. “No one is above the law. We must safe­guard our democ­ra­cy and stop for­eign inter­fer­ence in our elec­tions.”

“What the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives did by open­ing an impeach­ment inquiry is essen­tial to pro­tect­ing the well-being of the coun­try,” agreed Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden.

Today’s announce­ment by Speak­er Pelosi is no guar­an­tee that impeach­ment efforts will actu­al­ly suc­ceed. Only two pres­i­dents in his­to­ry have ever been impeached by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives: Andrew John­son in 1868 and Bill Clin­ton in 1998. Richard Nixon avoid­ed impeach­ment over the Water­gate scan­dal by resign­ing in 1974, before the House could vote on impeach­ment.

And even if the House does impeach Trump, it wouldn’t result in his removal from office. Impeach­ment is akin to indict­ment in a crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ing.

If Trump is impeached, he would face a tri­al in the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate, presided over by Supreme Court Chief Jus­tice John Roberts — but with the pro­ceed­ings orches­trat­ed in large part by Mitch McConnell.

Sen­ate Repub­li­cans are already cir­cling the wag­ons in sup­port of Trump and all but promis­ing to vote to acquit him from what­ev­er charges the House brings.

Nonethe­less, there is val­ue to the House impeach­ing Trump. If Trump is not impeached, it sends a ter­ri­ble mes­sage that there are no con­se­quences for bla­tant abus­es of pow­er, leav­ing our democ­ra­cy in a per­ilous sit­u­a­tion.

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