By Zoe Singer ‘23
On September 24, 2019, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared that President Donald J. Trump’s involvement with foreign countries, specifically Ukraine, which were reported by a whistleblower from within the intelligence community, show his “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” launching the investigation to impeach him.
Ukraine, an ally of the United States, is currently at war with Russia. Congress previously agreed to give Ukraine money for military aid. Once Congress approved the funding to Ukraine, Trump directed his aides not to release the money to Ukraine.
In July, 2019, Trump called the newly elected President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, congratulating him on winning the election. During this phone call, Trump suggested that Zelensky “do [him] a favor” and investigate Joe Biden, Trump’s likely opponent in the 2020 elections, and his son Hunter Biden, in exchange for the military aid that Congress had promised Zelensky.
Records of the President’s phone call, as well as other calls, were then stored in a code sensitive server that is normally used for top secret national security conversations. Trump’s phone call to Zelensky did not fit these categories, which has caused many people to think that the call was stored there in an effort to hide Trump’s actions.
A whistleblower is a person who exposes or makes others aware of possible illegal, unethical, immoral, or dangerous actions taking place in either a private or public organization. The whistleblower at the White House is anonymous and he or she recently wrote a letter about the events that have been allegedly been reported. The Attorney General ignored the letter, but eventually Congress was made aware of the situation.
Pelosi declared that President Trump withheld money promised for military aid; requested Ukraine, and recently China, to influence the election; tried to cover up the phone calls; and threatened the whistleblower and his or her sources. Each of these activities, if true, violates the Constitution. As a result, Speaker Pelosi felt compelled to launch the investigation. On September 24, she explained that Congress would not be doing its job if it did not research the activities and actions involving Trump that it was hearing each day.
Trump and his team made the phone conversation with Zelensky public. Trump fully admitted to his actions. However, he defended himself and explained that the call was “perfect and there was no wrongdoing.” Others believe that the phone call illustrates illegal activity by the White House and by Trump himself.
Here at Heschel, students have differing political views and the investigation and impeachment conversations have sparked debate between students and teachers alike. Many people are sharing their opinions about whether or not they support an investigation to impeach Trump.
Senior Michael Schwab, president of the Young Conservatives club and Helios’ Debate Editor, is very upset to hear talk of impeachment. Schwab said, “I think he should stay in office. I think it would be a tragedy for the political system if he were to be impeached.” Schwab explained that he does not believe that Trump’s actions are worthy of impeachment. He said, “[Trump] hasn’t done anything worthy of being kicked out of office. You can dislike him, but that does not mean that you should be kicking him out of office.”
Sophomore Risa Lippe took a very different stance. She said, “I think that he should be impeached because it sends a message saying that no matter what position you are in, you’re not above the law, and it’s obvious that he has broken laws, specifically with Ukraine.” Yet Lippe is not completely pleased with the investigation because she fears it will hurt liberals’ chances of electing a democratic president in the next term. She said, “I think it could rally up more support for Trump because people might view liberals as attacking Trump.” Lippe believes that despite the negative and positive effects of the investigation, the investigation is necessary to continue to follow the laws included in the Constitution.
Lisa Cohen, Chair of the Social Studies Department, agrees with Speaker Pelosi and Lippe regarding the need for an investigation, Cohen explained, “I think there’s enough of a potential issue here that it is their responsibility as our representatives to protect the interest of the American people to investigate.” If what is being reported is one hundred percent true, Cohen does see an issue with having Trump remain in office. She said, “If indeed the President was leveraging our relationship and our aid to another country, trying to use that in order to get a private citizen investigated, that is really problematic.” Cohen added that it is too early to take sides and predict what exactly will come of the investigation. She cautioned, “This could play out in so many different ways over the next year that I think there is no way of knowing. I don’t think anybody can predict it. Lots of journalists are throwing out predictions, but I don’t see them as meaningful.”
The impeachment investigation has divided students and teachers greatly. However, given that new information on the case is being discovered everyday, there is no clear way of saying how the investigation will finally affect the Heschel community.