Understanding the impeachment process from the perspectives of the Whitman community

Jessica Lilly, Staff Reporter

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Impeachment — the issue dominating national headlines — has drawn varying levels of attention from the Whitman community.

Of the 15 students in the dining hall asked by The Wire to go on record about the impeachment, nine declined to comment, citing lack of knowledge on the topic. Among responses given, students mainly used broad references to “the government” and “the impeachment” rather than citing named milestones or stakeholders in the proceedings.  Despite the complexity of impeachment, the process were broadly summarized by the events that took place in the House Judiciary Committee, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

In early September of last year, an anonymous whistleblower complaint set into motion an impeachment inquiry that would call into question the very system on which the nation stands. The whistleblower accused President Donald Trump of withholding $400 million in military aid from the Ukrainian government. The aid was purportedly used as a quid pro quo to pressure Ukrainian President Zelensky into opening an investigation into Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and his son Hunter. 

The case was brought before the House Judiciary Committee in late September of last year. The Judiciary Committee collected evidence on the case, including the transcripts of a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky and the testimony of a number of diplomats and White House officials. The Judiciary Committee drafted two articles of impeachment which were then passed on to the House of Representatives. On Dec. 18, 2019, the House of Representatives approved charges of “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress” against President Donald Trump. Trump is the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. The impeachment charges were then heard in the Senate, where after lengthy debate about whether to call witnesses into the Senate trial, the Senate voted to acquit the president on Wednesday afternoon.

Ava Liponis, a first-year, commented on the Whitman student body’s response to the charges.

“In general they’re not very interested,” Liponis said. 

Kyle Dygert, also a first-year, offered an explanation for the possible indifference of the student body.
“While I still follow [the impeachment] and find it interesting… the impeachment process is complex and dragged out,” Dygert said. “Democrats have the House so [Trump] was impeached, but the Republican Senate means Trump probably won’t be removed from office.”

However, the impeachment proceedings are not without public consequence. Jordon Crawford, a politics and race and ethnics studies double major, discussed the implications of impeachment. 

I think [impeachment] was effective and necessary because it sets a precedence that abuse of power, regardless of the position at which it occurs, will not and should not be tolerated,” Crawford said. “If anything, it is a symbolic gesture as to how an effective democracy ought to be run… In my experience since being here, many people seem more committed to their affiliation with either the Democratic or Republican party respectively, rather than the policies or actions of either party.” 

Conversely, in an interview with East Oregonian late last year, Whitman Assistant Professor of Politics Jack Jackson suggested that the impeachment process “may reveal more consensus in the country about the president’s behavior than people imagine.”

This opinion was upheld by Kevin Faeustle, a sophomore and a member of the Whitman College Republicans. Faeustle addressed some of the misconceptions that surround the Republican perspective on impeachment.

“Identifying as Republican doesn’t always mean you fully support Trump 100 percent or think that Trump did nothing wrong at all,” Fauestle said. “While I don’t specifically like the way Trump handled the situation with the Ukrainian president, I also don’t think it was an impeachable offense.” 

Fauestle suggests that the national Republican-Democratic divide regarding impeachment is founded not so much on the question of whether the president abused his power but as to whether the abuses of power were significant enough to justify his removal from office.

However, Crawford hopes to remind the community that Trump was elected president using a campaign platform that promoted many of the same values for which he has since come under fire through the impeachment proceedings. 

“Many ardent proponents of impeachment sometimes forget that Trump was elected as president despite his campaign’s platform that promoted bigotry in various forms, among other anti-democratic values,” Crawford said. “It is worth remembering that impeachment won’t solve the conditions that necessitated and elected Trump. Unless we work to fix those societal discrepancies, impeachment really is nothing but a procedural.”