“Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office,” Lindsey Graham said in 1999 regarding the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton. I think it remains true today.
On Sept. 24, 2019, a formal impeachment inquiry was launched in response to a whistleblower complaint. The complaint alleges that on a phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump requested that Zelensky look into former Vice President Joe Biden’s dealings with a Ukranian prosecutor. At the time, Trump was withholding military aid from Ukraine and requested this inquiry by Zelensky immediately following the mention of purchasing military weapons. The reason this has led to an impeachment inquiry is because using the office of president to gather adverse information on your political rivals is an abuse of power.
The reason President Trump requested Zelensky look into Biden’s dealings is because Biden’s son, Hunter, was involved with a corrupt Ukrainian company and Biden called for a Ukranian prosecutor to be removed. However, many were calling for the prosecutor to be removed, as there was a consensus that he was not doing enough to fight corruption. Biden was not trying to prevent his son from facing corruption charges, he was trying to find a prosecutor who would be able to root out corruption, regardless of the impact on his son.
Graham also said back in 1999, “you don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role.”
When Clinton was impeached, it was not because the nation was threatened. It was because his conduct was called into question and our government found that he had not conducted himself in a manner that was consistent with his office and the nation he represented. Clinton was an excellent president, leading the nation into a period of strong economic prosperity. However, he had an extramarital affair while serving as president, and used that office to cover up that affair. While Clinton was not removed from office and while the affair likely did not alter his ability to serve his country to the best of his ability, his conduct did not remain consistent with the expectations of the office.
Parties have always gone after each other, especially in this time of extreme polarization, but both have historically respected the office of president. President Trump is accused of using that office for personal political gain, which is an abuse of office. Clinton abused his office in trying to cover up his scandal, and even though it was not a major danger to the nation, it was still an abuse of power for personal gain, and he was duly impeached because of it.
We need to examine the ways Trump has used his office with respect to this incident. Has he conducted himself with honor and integrity? Ultimately, this is not about right versus left. This is not about the president. It’s about the left and the right making sure the honor and integrity of the office is still intact, and cleansing the office if it has been violated in any way – not necessarily because of wrongful acts, but because of wrongful conduct.
The whistleblower complaint and the transcript of the phone call can be found online. I encourage you to evaluate both documents and draw your own conclusions.
Teague Peterson ’23 is from Falls Oconomowoc, Wis. His major is undecided.