Local political analyst reacts to call for Trump investigation

President Donald Trump makes remarks about Ukraine during a multilateral meeting on Venezuela, at the InterContinental New York Barclay, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. Doug Mills/The New York Times)

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President Donald Trump makes remarks about Ukraine during a multilateral meeting on Venezuela, at the InterContinental New York Barclay, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. Doug Mills/The New York Times)

President Trump on Wednesday released a declassified, unredacted transcript of a July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymryr Zelenskyy, a day after Democratic lawmakers urged an investigation.

The probe focuses partly on whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government to undermine Democratic foe Joe Biden and help his own reelection effort. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday, such actions would mark a “betrayal of his oath of office” and declared, “No one is above the law.”

For months, Pelosi remained that a push for impeachment should be a last resort and that the House must investigate the facts and let the public decide.

“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable facts of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of his national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”

Confident that the investigation will only increase his political support as the nation draws closer to a 2020 election, President Trump said the transcript will reveal “a very friendly and appropriate call.”

“There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have,” he tweeted Wednesday from New York, where he has spent the week meeting with world leaders participating in the annual U.N. General Assembly. “The Democrats are frozen with hatred and fear. They get nothing done. This should never be allowed to happen to another President. Witch Hunt!”

Mark Caleb Smith, a political studies professor at Cedarville University, talked with 1290 and 95.7 WHIO’s Larry Hansgen on Wednesday to discuss whether this impeachment probe has any traction.

“I think maybe one of the errors Democrats have committed over the past couple of years is to be constantly talking about impeachment and constantly talking about investigations,” Smith said. “To the point where you do see some of scandal fatigue. I think there’s a potential here if this impeachment proceeding flounders a little early on, lets say the transcript we get today isn’t all that interesting or revealing, I think the Democrats are probably in trouble.”

The new impeachment drive was led by a group of moderate Democratic lawmakers from political swing districts, many of them with national security backgrounds and serving in Congress for the first time. The freshmen, who largely represent districts previously held by Republicans where Trump is popular, risk their own reelections but say they could no longer stand idle.

“Ever since the Democrats took over the House in 2018, there has been pretty consistent drum beat for impeachment from the more progressive part of the party,” Smith said. “Speaker Pelosi is quite progressive herself. She’s also a really strategic politician. I think she’s thought all along this is politically going to be very difficult, not much of a chance of a pay off in the United States Senate for actually removing the President. So I think she’s resisted until now. I think it’s because of the pressure. I think it’s also though because maybe the phone exchanges with the Ukrainian President— these are different, they’re new and they’re also provocative.”

The rough transcript is not a full account of what was said on the call between Trump and Zelenskiy — meaning more details might yet emerge. Congress has also not seen the full whistle-blower’s complaint, which is believed to be based on more than just the call.

Smith said he is not sure whether the impeachment inquiry and the phone call with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy can be dealt with separately, but he expects House Democrats will rely on other factors, as well.

“I think for the Democrats, it seems like they are staking, to some degree, this impeachment on what happens and what we hear today (Wednesday) and the next couple of days between presidents,” Smith said. “Now I think they’re going to say, ‘Well certainly have plenty of other things. We have the Mueller Report, we have other arguments about obstruction of justice.’ But I think those are going to be very difficult (arguments). So if we don’t get some pretty important information, some information that really condemns the President’s behavior, I think the Democrats are really going to struggle on this.”

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