With the U.S. House of Representatives looking into the impeachment of President Donald Trump, BYU–Hawaii students interviewed have a variety of opinions of Trump and his presidency.
Two students said they view impeachment as more than a check on executive power and said it is being used as a political weapon, but two other students said they see it as a way to end the president’s abuse of power.
A BYUH political science professor and a fellow at the Center for the Study of Federalism, Dr. Troy Smith, said, “Bill Clinton was impeached and came back more popular than ever. Nixon was almost impeached, but resigned before he got impeached. His popularity was bad for decades. I don’t think anyone knows how this will affect the election, but it will."
The definition of impeachment
Smith said, "The Constitution defines what an impeachable offense is: treason, bribery, high crimes, and misdemeanors – anything that harms the public trust and its institutions.”
According to the History, Art and Archives U.S. House of Representatives website, “The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to impeach an official, and it makes the Senate the sole court for impeachment trials. The power of impeachment is limited to removal from office but also provides for a removed officer to be disqualified from holding future office. Fines and potential jail time for crimes committed while in office are left to civil courts.”
The site also says in the history of the United States, “The House has initiated impeachment proceedings more than 60 times, but less than a third have led to full impeachments. Just eight—all federal judges—have been convicted and removed from office by the Senate. Outside of the 15 federal judges impeached by the House, two presidents (Andrew Johnson in 1868 and William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton in 1998), a cabinet secretary (William Belknap in 1876), and a U.S. senator (William Blount of Tennessee in 1797) have also been impeached.”
The most recent president who was impeached was Bill Clinton, but according to the History on the Net website, the U.S. Senate split the vote 50-50 against Clinton for the charge of obstruction of justice, but it did not meet the required two-thirds majority vote to remove him from office. Another famous impeachment process in American history was for Richard Nixon about the Watergate Scandal. Nixon resigned before he was impeached, says History.com, and was later pardoned by President Gerald Ford.
Qualifying for impeachment
Smith discussed the charges against Trump in the impeachment process, and said, “He is seeking information from a foreign country that will harm your political opponent. A high crime and a misdemeanor? We know that Hillary Clinton did that against Donald Trump. Using the government authority, a quid pro quo to get a foreign government to do what you want.”
He added, “Is that a high crime and misdemeanor? We know that Biden did that. But there was not much condemnation against Hillary and Biden when they did that. So, what is the problem here? Is it the quid pro quo or seeking evidence against your opponent? We need more time for the House Judiciary Committee to make it clear what is the problem in this case. That, to me, isn't yet sufficiently developed.”
The impact of the Trump Administration
Trump is running for a second term and will meet his competition in first the Republican primaries and then in the general election.
Smith said, "Donald Trump is breaking norms [...] helped preserve comity, and he is breaking other norms that should be addressed and broken, such as reducing regulations, standing up for the forgotten groups in our society, or challenging foreign shibboleths. He is challenging some of those things, and they may be good.
"It has yet to be determined that his presidency either be beneficial or harmful. It is clearly transformative. Politics will not be the same after Donald Trump. And one other thing he seems to have unleashed is a considerable disregard for the truth, and that is precedent with both him and several democratic presidential candidates."
Students who oppose Trump
Gabe Fryar, a senior majoring in political science, cultural anthropology, and intercultural peacebuilding with a certificate in TESOL, said, “Donald Trump is a shame to American democracy because he represents some of the worst characteristics of Americans through his failed attempts of diplomacy. Not only does he put himself to shame, but also the credibility and perception of the United States abroad. His actions are that of a business tycoon and not that of a president.”
Fryar said Trump’s alleged “coercion by withholding aid to Ukraine is both immoral and selfish. He is not doing what is best for his country — he is doing what is best for himself and his re-election. Although, I would expect these actions from a man that was raised in privilege and worked in an industry that continually incentivized his material selfishness.”
Fryar said, “This is absolute grounds for impeachment because it doesn’t matter what party the president is from.”
Zeph McKee, a senior majoring in political science, shared his viewpoint of Trump’s presidency.
He said, “I think he has done a lot of things to benefit the United States in the short term, but in the long term, it could be potentially dangerous effects on international politics. From what I understand, Trump has adopted a protectionist policy, and that is good because it makes the U.S. more self-sufficient.” However, McKee said he thinks it can also be dangerous to isolate the United States from the rest of the world.
“I disapprove the way he acts because I don't think it is becoming for a president of the U.S. to be acting this way.” McKee added, "He is doing what all presidents do: Trying to spy and use your current political standing to get an advantage in the election. The thing with Trump is that nobody likes him, and it was likely that a whistleblower will report him.”
Students who support the president
River Gibson, a senior from Hawaii who majors in both history and education and minors in psychology, said, “Trump's presidency has ups and downs, but I like it for the most part. Well first, President Trump has called out the bias media.
“He actually kept all his promises, and he is building the wall. Third, he is taking down illegal immigration. I think he has done really well. He has helped Americans to be taken more seriously and recognized Israel.”
Quinn James, an undeclared freshman from Utah, said, “He is not the worst president we ever had. He is not the best, either. He is serving a nation and has not really messed anything up too much because he has not launched any nukes yet.”
He said, “At this point, I think any procedure to impeach the president is useless. We have a year and two months left with him.”