Transparency through the Lens of Impeachment

In 2019, President Donald Trump withheld $250 million in aid to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative [1]. It was later discovered that senior officials in the Trump administration requested that Ukrainian officials investigate the dealings of Joe and Hunter Biden in Ukraine. These actions, as well as increasing pressure, led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to announce a formal impeachment investigation into the President. This is not President Trump’s first collusion incident. During his 2016 campaign, the President repeatedly denied colluding with the Russian government after they offered him opposition research on Hilary Clinton [2].

Collusion is defined as a “secret agreement or cooperation, especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose. [3] The secrecy of the Trump administration has led citizens to distrust the government and has increased polarization along party lines. According to research done by Quinnipiac University in March of 2019, 6 months before the impeachment inquiry began, 65% of Americans do not believe that the President is honest [4]. No other president has had a larger partisan gap in his job approval rating than President Trump, with Democrats averaging 7% and Republicans 84% [5].  

The impeachment of President Donald Trump is only the third impeachment in US history, coming after the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. The first step of the impeachment process begins with an investigation, followed by the delivery of the articles of impeachment. In this case, the articles included obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. Then, the House of Representatives vote to send the articles to the Senate. If the majority vote guilty, the accused would then be tried by the Senate in a trial presided over by the Chief Justice of the United States. Both articles of impeachment against Trump were voted down by the Senate in an almost perfectly partisan vote. 

The impeachment process has only exacerbated the partisan divide and has far-reaching consequences. Most voters agree that the President abused his power and obstructed Congress, though almost half believed he should finish his term [6]. Similarly, some Republican senators argued that the House should have pursued further testimony by witnesses while others claimed the President’s actions weren’t impeachable. The acquittal of President Trump may set precedent for further abuses of power and obstruction of Congress during his administration and beyond [7]. Acquittal can establish weakened congressional authority and public transparency, as future presidents may feel empowered to exploit their power as well as party divisions. 

Transparency is imperative for state officials. By requiring all candidates to disclose collusion and/or contact with foreign states, citizens can make knowledgeable decisions when voting for a candidate. As Texas State Senator Judith Zaffirini asserts, “open government is critical to an informed public, and an informed public is critical to democracy. [8]” Without transparency, we cannot have a fully informed public. As a result, we are at risk of creating an environment of unbridled tensions that limit our ability to better our society, both on Capitol Hill and throughout the country.

Written by: Willie Daniely III