Front page, above-the-fold news on media channels for weeks has been the recent inquiry into President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukraine. A whistleblower accused Trump of pressuring the Ukraine president to explore corruption allegations against Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
Democrats are calling for impeachment, while Republicans state the whistleblower is a registered Democrat with connections to Trump’s political rivals for the 2020 election.
With media sources on both sides of the debate releasing opposite standpoints, confusion runs rampant around the inquiry – starting with the word “impeachment.” Most Americans associate impeachment with a removal from office. However, impeachment means to make a charge against a public official, and is only step one in determining if the president committed a crime.
“Charges focus on ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ an inherently imprecise category of behavior typically associated with being unfit for office,” said Luke Perry, professor of government at UC.
Perry clarified some misconceptions about the process.
“Impeachment and removal from office is part of Congress’ oversight responsibility of the other two branches of government,” he said. “It has not happened often. What is now unfolding is historic.”
Since the phone call went public, America has been bombarded with news about the accusation and its nuances. Viewpoints range across the spectrum on whether the president dealt corruptly.
Perry called Trump’s phone call “unusual.”
“Whether it should be considered impeachable has become a major national debate,” he said. “Impeachment can be a very divisive and ugly process.”
Utica College students have been following media stories about the inquiry, and are concerned about the direction the media frenzy to impeach the president may take.
“I would hope that it wouldn’t be something like that,” said Emily Thomas, a junior History major.
Most students agreed that the media is playing a significant role.
“I feel like there’s just so much talk about it, but there’s no way to tell if it’s actually going to happen,” Thomas said. “The media blows it up and it’s hard to know what’s really going on.”
Thomas said an inquiry, but not necessarily impeachment, may bring the truth to light.
“There’s no way to tell unless there’s an investigation,” she said. “I think there’s about a 50 percent chance of it going either way.”
Ethan Siderine, sophomore sports management major, said he thinks there is “stuff” that Trump did that was hidden.
“It’s a big debate,” Siderine said. “When it comes down to it, it really stinks because something like that takes away from what’s really important in the country: whether he’s doing a good job or not.”
With 2020 elections one year away, some wonder if Trump will stay in the running after the allegations.
“If they don’t find anything on Trump, he’s going to be up there,” said Dakota Allen, cybersecurity senior. “He knows how to get things done.”
Allen is not necessarily looking forward to Trump being one of the candidates. He said the president is not “politically correct” in his communication with people.
Some students said the media stories have been over-hyped and that impeachment is drastic.
“I think the call for impeachment was a bit hasty,” said Eric Noble, a senior health studies major. “They should have been more direct with their investigations rather than jumping right to impeachment. I think the word ‘impeachment’ is kind of the nuclear option.”
Others at UC are eager for the investigation to reveal that Trump is unfit for office.
“What Mr. Trump did in the phone call with his counterpart of Ukraine was wrong,” said Jun Kwon, assistant professor of government and politics. “It debased the integrity of one of the finest institutions in American democracy.”
In further discussion, Kwon said he does not like the president.
“We live in an era when everything is disputed and refuted,” Kwon said. “But there are at least two things which are the least controversial in modern democracy: democracy is a good thing and we believe that leaders we elect should exercise their power to serve the community and not for their own interests.”
Not everyone on campus agrees with Kwon that the president dealt corruptly, and some consider the inquiry to be too timely to the 2020 elections to be coincidental.
“They will harass him and expose him so he loses support,” Allen said. “I think they’re trying to do this right now to affect his race and his election numbers.”
Allen said the whistleblower “waited” to allow the investigation process to overshadow the 2020 elections.
“I think they’re strategically doing this right before the 2020 elections,” he said. “They might be pushing false information. It’s strategic because they want him losing his votes.”
Noble disagreed that the impeachment was related to the elections, but he said it was coincidentally favorable for opposing candidates.“It is fortuitous because it puts Trump in a peculiar position for the upcoming 2020 race,” he said.
The inquiry reflects on the Mueller investigation into Trump’s dealings with Russia.
“I thought that the Mueller report was kind of a waste of time, money and resources,” Noble said. “It was a very difficult thing to prove.”
Noble said the negative Mueller report makes the Ukraine inquiry harder for people to believe.
“It [the Mueller report] decreases their credibility for this investigation,” he said.
Siderine didn’t expect the Mueller investigation to reveal any corrupt details.
“I think it [the Mueller investigation] was more of a publicity stunt,” Siderine said.
The Mueller investigation was negative after spending two years and more than $3 million to prove presidential corruption and students agreed with the outcome.
“I thought that whole Russian issue was a lot bigger than it was now but I think that they won’t find anything again,” Allen said.
Students called the Mueller investigation a dead-end that proved nothing.
“The Mueller thing – everyone thought that it was impeachable too but absolutely nothing came out of it,” Thomas said.
Will the Ukraine incident result the same way as the Mueller report? Perry urges students to research the president’s conversations with Ukraine from an unbiased standpoint.
“I encourage students to learn more about the facts of this case and try to evaluate the situation as objectively as possible,” Perry said. “The tendency for most Americans is to engage this issue from a partisan perspective, which can be counterproductive in trying to ascertain what is right and best for U.S. government and society.”