UW expert explains implications in impeachment inquiry

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MADISON (WKOW) — After months working to control impeachment talk in her own party, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday the House will begin an impeachment inquiry into the president’s phone call with the Ukranian president.

According to David Canon, a political science professor at UW-Madison, after President Donald Trump’s comments confirming he did discuss Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden with the Ukranian president, the speaker felt there was enough evidence to change her stance.

“For the speaker, this showed a real different kind of level of wrongdoing that she believed was not present in incidents that had been talked about,” he said.

At issue is whether or not President Trump froze funds for Ukraine before asking their president to investigate the son of a political opponent.

Canon said it brings up similar collusion questions like we saw in the Mueller investigation but he said any evidence pointing towards collusion would hold greater weight because Trump would be acting as president, not as a private citizen.

“The idea that you would be going after your main political rival by getting help from a foreign government, that’s a clear violation of federal law,” he said.

Canon said the founding fathers wrote impeachment into the Constitution to hold any abuse of office accountable but recent impeachment attempts show opening those investigations is politically risky.

“One lesson that was learned from the Clinton impeachment, is in order for an impeachment to be successful in removing the president you do need to have bipartisan support,” he said.

In this case, Canon said it’s not there. Right now opinion surrounding impeachment falls along party lines. An impeachment vote may pass through the Democratically-controlled House but it’s unlikely to get the two-thirds majority in the Senate necessary to result in unseating the president.

“If the vote was held today, there’s no chance he’d be convicted in the Senate,” Canon said.

The only thing Canon said could change that would be new evidence showing an egregious abuse of power. As the inquiry brings evidence forward these next few weeks, he said we’ll start to see where this impeachment process may go.

“That’s where I think we’ll start to see either the partisan positions hardening or maybe if there is some other damaging information there maybe you will see some Republicans saying okay maybe we do need to say okay we need to at least push ahead with the impeachment inquiry,” he said.

Until then, he said it’s likely this announcement will only serve to deepen political divides leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

“It’s clearly still a political risk,” he said.

Canon said the country is also waiting to see the scope of the investigation. He said the investigation could go quickly if they limit the scope to the phone call with the Ukranian president. If it expands to the Mueller report or other presidential scandals he said it could last well into 2020.

Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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