The Miller Center hosted 200 students and community members in the Rotunda Friday afternoon for a discussion on the ongoing presidential impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
In December, Trump became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House of Representatives — and now faces a congressional trial after articles of impeachment were submitted to the Senate Thursday. Trump is charged with abusing his presidential power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, as well as for obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.
Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the Miller Center, moderated a panel that included Law Prof. Deborah Hellman, Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Chris Lu, former deputy chief counsel of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Perry remarked that impeachment offers an exciting opportunity for researchers like herself.
“It's like an ornithologist who studies a rare bird species, and then they’re told, ‘Oh! It's going to land in your backyard,’” Perry said. “You run out with your binoculars, and you get ready to study it because I teach about it, but you don't usually get to see it happening in real time.”
Perry guided the group’s conversation about impeachment, incorporating topics such as Chief Justice John Roberts’ role of presiding over the Senate trial and upcoming steps.
The audience also asked questions, such as whether Congress should have pursued censure instead of impeachment and whether the president has been acting in his own political interest or for national security. When asked about the president’s lack of cooperation with the investigation and trial in Congress, Lu expressed concern over the president’s actions.
“There's always been this accommodation between executive and legislative branches in terms of oversight,” Lu said. “But the president is actually basically saying, ‘I am beyond the reach of legislative oversight.’ I think it should trouble all of us.”
While discussing the terms used in the articles of impeachment against Trump, Hellman explained how bribery, treason or other high crimes and misdemeanors are considered impeachable offenses under the constitution.
“The phrase is asking us to think about what unites treason and bribery, and what unites treason and bribery is offenses that speak to disloyalty,” Hellman said. “It’s about doing something that’s putting your own interests in front of the loyalty you owe to the institution on which you sit.”
First-year College student Jacob Zahalsky said the event captured his attention due to the gravity of impeachment.
“Our government and American politics is an important thing to pay attention to, especially now with the election coming up, with all the political, legal implications of the engagement,” Zahalsky said. “I think it's important … for the country as a whole.”
Bill Antholis, the director and CEO of the Miller Center, said in a previous interview with The Cavalier Daily that the Center has been criticized in the past for hosting events that lack conservative views and fail to incorporate voices that support the president — a critique that Perry acknowledged, saying it is hard to find people who support the president.
First-year College student Adrian Mamaril said he believed that the presentation managed to present a mostly objective conversation on such a political matter.
“I think for the most part they were [objective], but I thought there were some times where I felt they had to input their opinion into some questions,” Mamaril said. “But in other terms, they looked at the facts.”