The Capitol Building (cover photo) has become the setting for President Trump’s impeachment trial. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
As President Donald Trump becomes the third sitting president to be impeached, the trial has become a compelling topic in the classroom and among student leaders.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced the formal impeachment inquiry in September, setting the stage for a bitter showdown between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
The inquiry revealed that Trump and his allies pressed officials from Ukraine for months to open investigations that would be politically advantageous for the president. Ukraine is an eastern European country that is reliant on U.S. support in a war with Russian-backed separatists.
While the president withheld nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine, it is still unclear if the action was meant to pressure the country to open the investigations Trump sought. The president has said the aid withdrawal was not meant to pressure Ukraine, but multiple U.S. officials involved in foreign policy have testified against Trump’s claim.
The House voted mostly along party lines to impeach Trump on Dec. 18, voting 230-197. The two articles of impeachment accused the president of abuse of power and of obstructing Congress.
As the trial begins in the Senate, the UD College Republicans and Democrats reflected on the process thus far and what the future of the trial will hold.
“I was deeply disappointed by the fact that not a single Republican member of Congress voted for impeachment,” said Thomas Pedrotti, president of the College Democrats. “I was, however, reassured that the President is finally seeing some form of accountability for his actions.”
Both Pedrotti and Treven Cade, president of the College Republicans, do not find it likely that the Senate will vote in favor of impeachment.
“My expectation for the trial is just for it to be agonizingly long, although the process is very delicate and deserves to take its time,” Cade said. “As far as the result, I do not think the Senate vote will pass the threshold.”
“At the end of the day, each Senator must vote their conscience as to whether or not President Trump should be removed from office for his actions,” Pedrotti said. “With a Republican majority in the Senate, it seems unlikely that the necessary ⅔ of the Senate will vote to convict.”
The opinions of students in College Democrats and Republicans seemed mainly to fall within party lines.
“The UD College Republicans have a wide array of beliefs and opinions, but no one has told me that they do favor the impeachment,” Cade said. “Although if they did, their opinions would be worth just as much as any other UD [College Republican] or any other student for that matter.”
“The overwhelming consensus in our club is that impeachment was necessary and that the House was right to act,” Pedrotti said. “We do have several members who worry that it may impact the 2020 election in negative ways – but the fact of the matter is that politics can’t play into decisions like this. Besides, my prediction is that the proceedings may help some voters see the corruption that is present in President Trump’s administration.”
Dr. Christopher Devine, political science professor at UD, discussed impeachment in his presidency course just days before the Senate trial began. In addition to examining the articles of impeachment, Devine and his class discussed interpretations of constitutional standards for impeachment and procedures for conducting the Senate trial.
Devine chose to focus the lesson on whether the articles of abuse of power and obstructing congress met the constitutional standards for impeachment, instead of whether the president should have been impeached in the first place.
“I want [the students] to think through those standards in such a way that they would also be prepared to evaluate the merits of an impeachment case against a future president on different charges,” he said. “I think this will be a more constructive discussion, and one that will teach students to engage in critical thinking rather than partisan warfare.”