President Trump was officially impeached by the House of Representatives on Thursday, December 18. This is the culmination of a months-long process, ignited by a whistleblower complaint filed in August of this year. 

Regardless of one’s political opinions of the President and this process, this is a historical event. This is the third time in American history that a President has been impeached; the first, Andrew Johnson, and the second, Bill Clinton. It should also be noted that impeachment does not equate removal from office. In fact, there has yet to be a case in American history when a President was removed from office for committing “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Let’s talk facts. With the weight of this event, it is essential that we be informed. The American public deserves to understand the facts of why the President is being impeached and if there is cause for removal. While there are many moving parts to consider, here are the seven main areas of which the American public should be aware:

The Whistleblower

A complaint was filed on August 12, 2019 by who was later to be revealed as a CIA officer concerning information this individual received that President Trump was wielding “the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” The official was not witness to the events that led to the complaint but was alerted of the happenings by “multiple U.S. Government officials.” This prompted the official to file a complaint for submission to Congress.

Since the filing of the complaint and subsequent fallout, the whistleblower’s identity remains unknown to the public. The individual, via his legal team, offered to answer written questions from House Republicans in early November. This was rejected by Republicans and Democrats alike; Congressman Jim Jordan insisted that Republicans hear from the individual in person. Democrats have said that further word from the whistleblower is unnecessary.

In regards to the whistleblower’s potential political motivations (a theory peddled in conservative circles), it should be noted that the letter passed to the Acting Director of National Intelligence by the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community explained that the whistleblower may break with the President politically, but that this did not dissuade the ICIG from finding the “urgent concern” credible.

Takeaways: The whistleblower filed a complaint about events he was not witness to but still were credible. His political reservations are not believed to have any bearing on the complaint.

The July 25 Phone Call

The cornerstone of this complaint is the now-infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky on July 25. Americans will likely remember that the phrase discussed ad nauseum following President Trump’s release of the phone call transcript was quid pro quo, which translates to “something for something” — as Merriam-Webster defines it: “something given or received for something else.”

In terms of the call, this accusation of quid pro quo comes in this form: President Trump pressuring the Ukrainian President to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election (specifically, as the whistleblower writes, “locate and turn over servers used by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and examined by the U.S. cyber security firm Crowdstrike”) as well as the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, in exchange for military assistance against Russian aggression.

Republicans say the transcript of the phone call proves that there was no quid pro quo; Democrats say otherwise. Read the transcript in full here; below, read the section of the phone call in question:

President Trump: I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time… the United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine.

President Zelensky: …I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps. specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.

President Trump: I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it… 

In reference to former Vice President Biden’s son, Trump later said, 

The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me. 

Trump also mentioned that Zelensky speak with Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani, and the Attorney General Bill Barr to assist.

In his letter about the call, the whistleblower explained that he was made aware of efforts to “lock down” the details of this call in the days following. More specifically, the records of the call were placed in a system that stores covert information. However, the whistleblower said that this was not because the call carried information of national security concern. It was “solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information.” This, according to the knowledge passed along to the whistleblower, is not the first time such action has occurred in the Trump administration.

As we well know now, the White House released the transcript of the call in late September. It is also important to make clear that the millions of dollars in military aid were released, also in September, before investigations were announced by the Ukrainian government. Further, the Ukrainian president denies feeling pressured, and the Ukrainian government was unaware of the withholding of funds. This is seen by Republican officials to be evidence against a quid pro quo.

Takeaways: The idea of a quid pro quo stems from the July 25 phone call, in which President Trump insinuates that he will provide funds for military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into Hunter Biden and 2016 Russian election interference. These funds were later released two months after the phone call took place.

The whistleblower claims that efforts were made to ensure that this phone call was not made known to the public; however, the transcript was later released in the name of transparency. 

The Hearings

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump on September 24, 2019. Since then, dozens of officials have been called to testify before the House and 18 have done so.

In between partisan games and political grandstanding on the parts of both Republican and Democratic members of Congress, witnesses provided important information for the American public. Here are highlights from prominent witnesses, including Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland; David Holmes, an official at the US Embassy in Kyiv; and Fiona Hill, former Trump advisor on Russia and Europe.

The testimony of Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a self-described lifelong Republican, gave insight into several areas of uncertainty. Read his full opening statement here; provided below are key elements of his opening statement:

First, Sondland noted that “Secretary Perry, Ambassador [Kurt] Volker, and I worked with Mr. Rudy Guiliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States.” He also testified that “Guiliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma” in exchange for Zelensky visiting the White House. This, Sondland expressly said, falls within the confines of a quid pro quo. Additionally, he explained that these were the desires of President Trump. But Sondland could not say whether the aid in question was used as a bargaining chip for the investigations the President desired; for this, he would not and claims he could not provide clear evidence of a quid pro quo–on which the impeachment inquiry hinges.

David Holmes’ opening statement here; below are takeaways from his opening statement:

Holmes detailed a phone call on July 26 with Ambassador Sondland and President Trump in which the President asks whether “the investigation” would happen, and Sondland confirmed that it would. He also testified that, by the end of August, 

“…my clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Ukrainians who had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.”

Trump later cast doubt on the July 26 phone call, but Sondland did not dispute its occurrence.

Fiona Hill testified on the same day as Holmes. Her opening statement is here; important points from her testimony are below:

Hill classified herself as a nonpartisan Russian expert. Her knowledge on the subject led her to make clear in her opening statement that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, not Ukraine, an idea discussed by some (namely Republicans) on the committee. In fact, Hill said that Ukrainian intervention in the election is “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

The New York Times has provided a full list of those who testified before Congress (in both closed-door and public meetings), along with links to the transcripts of these exchanges. You can read those here.

Takeaways: The whistleblower’s complaint is shown to be accurate (in terms of the phone call’s occurrence and content) by those close to the foreign policy happenings in Ukraine. Evidence of a quid pro quo (specifically, Ukraine investigating the Bidens and Crowdstrike in exchange for military aid) is arguable but not definitive, as seen by testimony from Sondland and Holmes. The question of Ukrainian intervention in the 2016 election is debunked by Hill.

The Official Impeachment

On Wednesday, December 18, Speaker of the House announced the official impeachment of President Donald Trump on the basis of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, respectively. 

The House vote for impeachment fell largely along party lines. On the first charge, all but two Democrats voted in favor of impeachment; all Republicans, plus the two Democrats voted against, while Democrat Tulsi Gabbard voted “present.” On the second charge, three Democrats voted against impeachment, alongside all their Republican counterparts. The rest of the Democrats in the House voted in favor, while Gabbard, again, voted “present.”

Takeaways: President Trump has been officially impeached in a vote contested by Republicans and select Democrats.

What Now?

Again, impeachment does not equate removal from office. Contrary to narratives circulating on social media, Trump is still the president, and he can continue his campaign for a second term.

The next step is for the articles of impeachment to be delivered to the Senate, which will hold a trial. However, Speaker Pelosi has not said when she will transmit the articles of impeachment. Democratic leaders have insinuated that they might withhold the articles until they are assured of an impartial trial in the Senate.

As for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he expressed his lack of faith in the process carried out by the House, calling it the “the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair” impeachment inquiry.

Regardless of the Democratic leaderships’ reservations, to carry out this process in full means to hold a Senate trial. This is the next step, as laid out in the Constitution. Whether it occurs is still up for debate, but this is the only way to complete the process and arrive at either acquittal or removal.

While the American people do not vote for or against impeachment, we are those who elect the officials to make that decision. So, follow the facts. Inform yourself. Decide whether the President’s actions warrant impeachment for yourself. And, come November 2020, tell these officials how you feel about this process by going to the ballot box.

Liana I.
FFL Cabinet
Liana is a follower of Christ and current communications student at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She enjoys writing, reading, and serving others.

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