After years of calls to do so, Democrats in the US Congress are finally having a go at impeaching Donald Trump. But why now?
What’s all this then?
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, one of the most powerful Democrats, has announced the launch of a formal inquiry of impeachment into one Donald J. Trump. “No one is above the law,” she said. “The president must be held accountable.”
Finally. So is this about children being locked up in concentration camps at the Mexico border?
Oh, it must be about the numerous credible accusations of sexual assault?
Ah, so it must be the massively corrupt way in which he directs government money towards his hotels and businesses.
Yeah, no. Not that either.
Is it from all the bad tweets?
If there was any sanction for bad tweets we’d all be looking over our shoulders.
Then what could possibly have happened to open impeachment proceedings now?
On the face of it, the accusation against Trump is fairly straightforward. It’s that he withheld military aid to Ukraine so that he could pressure their president, Volodymyr Zelensky, into opening a corruption investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of US senator Joe Biden – a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
… Is that it?
The thing is though, Trump has basically already admitted that he did withhold the aid to Ukraine, but that it wasn’t related to Hunter Biden. He’s also admitted to trying to pressure Zelensky into opening the investigation into the Bidens. It doesn’t take a genius to put two-and-two together and get the message that one was related to the other, even if it wasn’t explicitly stated that one was related to the other.
Were the Bidens actually doing corrupt activities worth investigating?
There’s certainly a lot there that smells, though no hard evidence. It goes back to 2014 when Joe Biden was vice president, and leading US diplomatic efforts in Ukraine. Hunter Biden was then hired to be on the board of a leading Ukrainian gas company which raised some pretty hefty conflict of interest concerns. And there was even an incident in which Joe Biden threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine unless a particular prosecutor was fired – Biden says that was because of said prosecutor’s failure to investigate corruption, while Trump allies claim that it was because the prosecutor intended on investigating corruption at the gas company.
This all seems rather politically motivated.
Doesn’t it just? So far a range of other candidates running for the Democratic nomination have come out in favour of impeachment proceedings, and a whole lot of elected House and Senate representatives have lined up saying the same.
What does Trump say about it all?
The usual, that it’s just more presidential harassment and witch-hunting. His campaign is also running a line beloved by seven-dimensional chess players, which is that impeachment will actually be good for his re-election chances in 2020 because it will show how everyone is against him.
What happens now?
Nancy Pelosi has directed six House committees already investigating Trump to proceed “under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.” After that, articles of impeachment may be written up, which eventually after a somewhat convoluted process results in the House of Representatives voting on whether or not to impeach the president.
And if they vote yes, he’s gone?
No. Then it moves up to the Senate, which is still controlled by a Republican party entirely beholden to Trump for their electoral prospects. Given how hard Senate Republicans play politics, it’s possible they’ll even just ignore the whole thing altogether, rather than going through the bother of voting it down.
Hang on, if none of this is actually going to result in anything, what was the point of delaying so long, and not doing it over much more substantive issues? What’s the point of even doing it now? What’s the point in any of this?
Here ends today’s cheat sheet.
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the day's best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.