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The doldrums of political revenge

Two articles of impeachment were approved by the House Judiciary Committee: One for abuse of power and one for obstruction of Congress. On 18th December, 2019 the House voted 230-197 in favour of abuse of power and 229-198 in favour of obstruction of Congress. The House has 435 members and a majority of 218 was needed to impeach Mr. Trump.

Now that he has been impeached, becoming the only third president in the history of the US politics, after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, the process will now head to Senate where the Democrats have to establish a two-third majority to remove Trump from office. This seems highly unlikely as out of the 100 Senators; they would require 67 votes in order to do so. The Democrats are 45 in numbers, Republicans are 53 and there are 2 independent Senators. Even with counting 45 Democrats and the two independents, the Dems will need 20 Republicans to shift camp, which is not an easy task.

Something big is being brewed by his adversaries. The democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are on his throat. They have started a campaign to impeach the POTUS (President Of The United States) which he terms as ‘fake’, ‘witch-hunt’ and ‘kangaroo court’.

This impeachment process has been termed by political experts to be a ‘political suicide’ for Nancy Pelosi.

Let’s delve deeper.

What’s an impeachment?
Impeachment in simple terms mean accusing a government official of a certain wrong doing that is ‘unconstitutional’. Impeachment, in most countries, itself never removes someone from the office. An impeachment is followed by a vote of removal/conviction. However, in some countries, like India, a government official can’t remain in office while the impeachment process ensues.

What does the US constitution say?
US constitution, under Article One, gives the right to the House of Representatives (House) to impeach and the Senate to conduct a trial on a successful vote for impeachment. The government official is not removed from office. The second stage begins where a vote is held for the removal of the official in the Senate. This process requires a supra-majority or two-thirds majority. For president it says that one can be impeached for ‘treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanours’. It doesn’t define what falls under ‘high crimes and misdemeanours’.

The history, please!!
Oh yes. Till date, the House has begun impeachment process 62 times and out of that nineteen federal officials have been impeached including two presidents, one senator and fourteen federal judges. The last impeachment of an official was during 2010 against a federal judge for accepting bribe which he was duly convicted of. While, the last impeachment of a president was in 1999 when Bill Clinton was charged with lying to jury and obstruction of justice, both of which he got cleared of.

Okay! Why Donald Trump? What has he done now?
It’s a long story. A story of two political rivals trying to outdo each other. It all started with an allegation by a whistle-blower that POTUS withheld military aid to Ukraine in a bid to investigate his political rival and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden for wrongdoings on a phone call.

Who were on the phone call?
American Side: Donald Trump
Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State
Robert Blair, Senior Adviser to Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney
Keith Kellogg, National Security Adviser
Jennifer Williams, Adviser for Europe and Russia
Charles Kupperman, Deputy National Security Adviser
Timothy Morrison, Senior Director for European Affairs
Alexander Vindman, Top Ukraine expert

Ukrainian Side: Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine president
May include Other officials and translators

What are the wrongdoings and why Mr. Biden?
In early 2014, Mr. Biden, the then vice-president, was appointed as an emissary to Ukraine by President Obama after Russia invaded Ukraine. He did what most VPs do – persuaded Ukrainian leaders to improve financial condition of Ukraine and gave ultimatum to get rid of rampant corruption. This was as his son Hunter got inducted into the Board of Directors in a Ukrainian Oil Company, Burisma Holdings. He was paid $50,000 per month just to attend a meeting. It was alleged by some advocates and administrators in Obama that Hunter took undue advantage of his father’s position.

Well if it was 2014, why raise this issue now in 2019?
Election!!! Trump!! Mr. Trump has played his ‘trump’ card to eliminate Joe Biden’s campaign for presidency by smearing his image in public. He has great connect with retirees and has a foothold in north eastern states. This is a major reason why the Trump camp is too eager.

Okay with that done, who uncovered this secret?
It was Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who went on to claim that the vice-president removed Viktor Shokin, a former prosecutor general of Ukraine, who in turn was investigating Hunter Biden’s involvement in money laundering tracing it all the way back to Brisma. Shokin said to media that he was forced by Petro Poroshenko, the then Ukrainian President, thrice – once on phone and twice personally to halt the investigation. When Shokin tried seizing Brisma’s assets, Poroshenko lost his cool and personally asked Shokin to resign. Shokin said it was all done to please Joe Biden who was threating to withhold a $1 billion loan to Ukraine.

Wait. What? Now Trump is getting accused of same thing his personal lawyer tried accusing Joe Biden of?
Haha. Yes. But even if it’s remotely true, Biden faces complete annihilation of his political career or what’s left of it anyway (he is 77 years old).

Great! Can you lay a time line please?
I thought you would never ask!

May, 2019 – Rudy Giuliani said he was going Ukraine to meet Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s new president, to discuss on matters involving Hunter Biden. After a week, Yuriy Lutsenko, a former prosecutor general, stated that there were no evidences of any wrongdoings by Biden.

July, 2019 – As per White House’s notes, Trump called Zelenskiy to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.

August, 2019 – Reports start coming out alleging Trump of withholding military aid amounting to $350 million to Ukraine.

September, 2019 – Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight Committees gets involved in the investigation against Giuliani and Trump. After the whistle-blower’s complaint surfaced, Nancy Pelosi demanded a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump with rising support from Democrats. A transcript related to the call that happened between Trump and Zelenskiy is released by White House in which Trump asked his counterpart to ‘do us a favour’. Subpoenas are issued against both Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, (a privy to the call between Trump and Zelenskiy) and Giuliani. Kurt Volker, Special envoy to Ukraine resigns.

October, 2019 – Trump goes public encouraging China to investigate the Bidens. Volker turns over text messages of the diplomats to the Congress. House Democrats subpoenaed the White House to submit the Ukraine documents or else face a full blown impeachment enquiry. A second whistle-blower comes forward. Subpoenas issued against Defence Secretary, Mark Esper and 4 other officials. Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was abruptly ousted in May, testifies before the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees alleging Trump pressured to remove her from office. Hunter Biden steps down from a Chinese backed private equity firm. With a vote of 232-196, the House officially adopts an impeachment resolution.

November, 2019 – House Republicans request for eight witnesses to appear at public impeachment process. The first public impeachment process begins on 13th. About 10 individuals testify in these public hearings.

December, 2019 – House Judiciary Committee votes whether to send the report to the House Intelligence Committee. Nancy Pelosi asks the committee to draft the articles of impeachment. The articles are then unveiled by the House Democrats.

Some individuals and their testimonies:

George Kent: The deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, testified that Trump did pressure Ukraine to probe the Bidens.

William Taylor: The acting ambassador to Ukraine, testified that he protested over the policy taken by Trump.

Marie Yovanovitch: Former diplomat serving under Bush and Obama era pointed that the whole process was revolved around quid-pro-quo and that’s the reason why Trump removed her.

Alexander Vindman: The top Ukraine expert registered concern over Trump’s request almost immediately with the legal staff on the National Security Council as per his testimony. He was present when the call was made.

Jennifer Williams: Special adviser on Europe and Russia to Vice-President Mike Pence, was in the White House Situation room listening to the call. She testified that the requests were “unusual and inappropriate,” but did not relay her concerns to her supervisor.Kurt Volker: The former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, tendered his resignation after the whistle-blower’s complaint got out stating that he was an intermediary in Giuliani’s exchange with the Ukrainians. This made him turn and hand over the text messages to the Congress.

Written By – Tejas Sharma(PGP 2)

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