By LIZZIE DEAL
The Iowa Caucus Project hosted an open impeachment dialogue with hopes to inform students about the impeachment process. The event was held in the Cowles Library Reading Room and provided students with an opportunity to learn and ask questions about impeachment.
The dialogue opened with a quick icebreaker to get the attending students engaged, then segued into discussion in pairs about what prior knowledge they had of impeachment and what questions they wanted to get answered over the course of the event. Most students who attended had varying backgrounds with regards to politics, so the conversation allowed for questions and answers about both broad and specific topics with regards to the impeachment process.
“I came in with a pretty good idea of what impeachment was,” Madeleine Leigh, a sophomore studying Political Science and News, said. “I thought [the dialogue] would be an interesting look at how the campus as a whole feels about impeachment.”
Professor Rachel Paine Caufield, who heads the Iowa Caucus Project, explained to students the basics of the impeachment process, which begins with committees looking into any possible impeachable offenses. After an impeachment inquiry is announced and substantial evidence has been gathered, it is brought before the House of Representatives and put to a vote. If a majority is in favor, then the president is impeached. After a president is impeached, the evidence is brought to Senate, where traditionally the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court presides over a trial. If two-thirds of the Senate votes in favor, the president can then be removed from office and barred from holding any government officer positions again.
One topic that was discussed not only by Professor Paine Caufield but in small groups of attendees was what sort of actions actually constitutes as impeachable offenses. The constitution defines that as any acts of treason, bribery, and high crimes and misdemeanors. One common misconception that people have about impeachment is that presidents have to be impeached for doing something that’s illegal. This isn’t true, however. When the constitution was written, the term misdemeanor didn’t have the criminal connotation that it has now, but rather meant something along the lines of mischief or shenanigans. The inclusion of high crimes and misdemeanors as impeachable offenses, therefore, is more of a catch-all that changes with the times and the opinion of both the House of Representatives and the public.
“There’s a lot of misinformation going around about impeachment,” said Samantha Bayne, the Iowa Caucus Project’s Campus Engagement Team Lead. “Many people don’t know that impeachment doesn’t mean immediate trial and conviction, so it was important to provide an open forum for students to talk about impeachment and what it means and spread the information to other students.”
After discussing what impeachment means, Professor Paine Caufield put it in perspective with the current political happenings by explaining that President Trump currently only has an impeachment inquiry open against him. When touching on the matter of the current impeachment process, attendees were careful to keep their own political opinions out of the conversation because of the event’s purpose — to educate students about the process of impeachment in a non-partisan way and encourage all students to engage in the discourse.
“The impeachment process is a Constitutional system; it’s existed since the beginning of our country, and it’s rearing its head right now,” Bayne said. “Students should know about current events, one of our main tenets as a university is civic engagement, so students should know what’s going on in their lives and around them.”