Since Donald Trump was elected as president in 2016 we’ve heard a non-stop barrage of collusion claims from his opponents and members of the media. That would naturally bring to mind the question of what is collusion? Here is the first thing that pops up when you search the definition of collusion in politics.
A secret agreement between two or more parties to limit open competition by deceiving, misleading, or defrauding others of their legal rights, or to obtain an objective forbidden by law typically by defrauding or gaining an unfair market advantage is an example of collusion.
Trump’s opponents have claimed he colluded with Russians and WikiLeaks to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails to obtain dirt against her in the 2016 election. An exhaustive two-year investigation led by Robert Mueller found no conclusive evidence of this to be for certain. They are now claiming his conversation with the newly elected Ukrainian president this past July was another example of his colluding with a foreign government to gain information against a political opponent, Joe Biden. Biden is the front-runner in many polls and his name was mentioned in the transcript. Trump wanted to know if there was corruption during the 2016 election by Biden, who was in charge of foreign relations with that country while he was vice president. Because of this the House has accused the President of an impeachable offense and has voted to begin formal impeachment hearings.
Let’s break down the most recent claim of collusion and see if it falls in line with the definition listed above.
Was there a secret agreement between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky? Yes, there was. By its very nature, the diplomatic conversation was private, classified, and only privy to a select few who were listening in on the conversation and recording it for transcription. Trump did request Zelensky to see if there was corruption by Biden to which Zelensky agreed to look into.
Did this conversation limit open competition by deceiving, misleading, or defrauding others of their legal rights? No, it did not. Just how the Mueller investigation that was tasked with seeing if Trump colluded with a foreign power did not violate Trump’s legal rights neither did Trump violate Biden’s rights when he inquired of Zelensky to see if Biden had behaved inappropriately.
Was the objective of the conversation to obtain an objective forbidden by law typically by defrauding or gaining an unfair market advantage? The Democrats and many in the media feel strongly in the affirmative. Just as they felt that the release of the DNC emails, which were entirely used against Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, thus giving Trump a political advantage, they feel Trump was trying to gain an unfair advantage once again by having information given to him to use against his potential 2020 opponent. Add to that the impression that Trump was withholding foreign aid until a deal was made to investigate Biden and you have all the ammo you need to proceed with impeachment hearings.
Not so fast say his supporters. In regards to foreign aid, it was never brought up during the conversation between Trump and Zelensky. Since it was never mentioned, and Ukraine was unaware of it being delayed, you cannot say the aid was used as a bargaining chip by Trump to obtain dirt on his political opponent.
How about requesting the aid of a foreign government to investigate if a political opponent committed a crime while he was in office as Trump was inquiring? The United States and Ukraine agreed in 1998 to assist each other while investigating criminal matters. Whether the President believes Biden committed a crime in the past and abused the power of the oval office while vice president or feels that Biden or any other political opponent might be currently colluding with a foreign entity to gain information against him, Trump has the Congressionally authorized right as President to seek assistance from Ukraine to determine if a crime was committed previously or presently.
Since both sides feel strongly that there is or is not sufficient grounds to move forward with an impeachment inquiry you might be thinking what is an impeachment inquiry and are the rules the same in politics as they are in a regular court of law? The short answer is no. Politics and the civil and criminal court system are completely different. Grounds for impeachment are inherently political. Grounds for civil and criminal convictions leave politics aside and are entirely factual.
You also might be wondering what is the process for impeachment. To get the answer I found an article online conducted by ABC news where they posed that question to several attorneys. Here was there response.
Impeachment is a political process in which any civil officer, including a president and vice president, can be removed from office “for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” according to the Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution.
New York-based criminal defense lawyer Ronald Kuby told ABC News in a 2017 interview that there is no definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but rather “it’s whatever Congress thinks it should.”
The House of Representatives wields the sole power to impeach a federal official, and the Senate has the sole power to convict and remove the individual.
The process begins in the U.S. House of Representatives, where any member of the House may suggest to launch an impeachment proceeding. It is then up to the speaker of the House, as leader of the majority party, to determine whether or not to proceed with an inquiry into the alleged wrongdoing.
“The critical determination comes to the speaker about whether or not to forward it,” Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina who authored a book on the impeachment process, told ABC News in 2017.
If there is a decision to proceed, the speaker would decide if the House Judiciary Committee handles the impeachment inquiry, or if a separate special committee is formed.
The special committee would be empowered to broaden the focus of the inquiry — or investigation.
If the speaker assigns the House Judiciary Committee to investigate, there is no time limit placed on their investigation and a likely public hearing would be scheduled at the discretion of the committee chair to vote on the articles of impeachment.
A simple majority of the members of the committee would have to vote in favor of approving an article or articles of impeachment to proceed to a vote by the full House. The House Judiciary Committee currently consists of 24 Democrats and 17 Republicans; 21 votes in favor would be necessary.
Each article of impeachment that is passed by a simple majority vote in committee would then be voted on by the full House of Representatives. If any of those articles get a simple majority vote, which is 50 percent plus one more vote, “the House will have impeached the president,” Gerhardt said.
If the House votes to impeach an official, the case must then be presented to the Senate, which will hold a trial. The Senate needs a two-thirds majority to find the official guilty and remove him or her from office.
While the Senate trial has the power to oust a president from office, it does not have the power to send a president to jail.
Suzanna Sherry, a law professor at Vanderbilt University who specializes in constitutional law, said of what the Senate conviction can do in terms of punishment, “The worst that can happen is that he is removed from office, that’s the sole punishment.”
That said, a president can face later criminal charges. Sherry points to the constitutional note that “the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment, according to law.”
One important factor to keep in mind about the outcomes of a Senate impeachment trial is that neither of the previous such trials has ever reached a conviction — they both ended in acquittals — so there is no precedent where the vice president or anyone else in the line of succession has taken over.
Seeing as how there are 53 Republicans in the Senate and 20 would need to vote in favor of impeachment along with 47 Democrats, what are the odds of that occurring? Slim to none. As I mentioned in a previous post, the President has 90% approval ratings amongst his base and is raising record amounts of money. A portion of that money flows down to other members of his party to assist in their election efforts. Unless a Senator has an obvious hatred for the President and is not concerned about receiving funding support (like Mitt Romney) the chances of 20 crossing party lines to impeach the president is a strong no as history has shown us.
Now that we know what collusion is, what the impeachment process entails, and the likelihood that it will be passed in the House but not approved by the Senate, what’s the point of doing it? After all, we are only one year away from the next presidential election. The people will have the final say in whether or not the President behaved improperly and is deserving of a second term. Why engage in impeachment hearings that are entirely political and only divide an already polarized nation? The answer is simple. You will find it in the following definition of politics.
When used as a noun, politics is defined as the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.
Political impeachment hearings have always been conducted by political parties in the minority that are hoping to achieve power. Democrats may control the House but Republicans control the Senate and White House. By proceeding with impeachment hearings that will undoubtedly pass the House it casts a dark cloud over Donald Trump and forever places him in a tiny club of only three presidents’ that came before him who were considered for impeachment. By proceeding with impeachment hearings Democrats can use the following year to attack the president with the hopes of having it be enough negative attention to have the people vote against him and provide a win for their candidate. If that occurs they will have achieved their ultimate objective of regaining power and removing him from office. What could also realistically occur is Trump winning his reelection efforts in spite of being impeached by the House. Just as collusion is frowned upon by members of the governing body so too is it frowned upon by an electorate who feels that same body is colluding with a complicit liberal media. That’s a topic for a completely different post but it is something to consider when you think about collusion.