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Experts available to speak on possible impeachment proceedings

  • Created: September 25, 2019

Nearly two-thirds of House Democrats now back some type of impeachment action in light of reports that President Donald Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to open an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. 

Experts from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, Department of Political Science and Pritzker School of Law, are available to speak with media on the parallels between today and the Watergate scandal and whether Trump’s recent actions change the calculus for Speaker Pelosi in terms of pushing for impeachment proceedings. 

Jon Marshall is a professor at Medill whose areas of expertise include the history of investigative reporting and the relationship between presidents and the media. He is also the author of "Watergate’s Legacy and the Press: The Investigative Impulse.” He can be reached at j-marshall@northwestern.edu or at 847-846-1677. 

Quote from Professor Marshall:  

“Echoes of Watergate can be heard among the clamor to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump over allegations that he tried to pressure Ukraine’s president to give him political dirt on Joe Biden. 

“During Watergate, President Richard Nixon was accused of using the power of the Oval Office to go after his opponents just as Trump is today. In both instances, the press did much of the digging that exposed the scandals, the presidents blamed the media for their troubles, anonymous sources provided much of the information that led to calls for impeachment, and White House staffs refused to provide critical information to Congress. 

 “Growing public distrust in the media and Congress also make it more difficult to rally public support for impeachment proceedings. It remains to be seen whether transcripts of Trump’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will expose a smoking gun in the same way that transcripts of Nixon’s conversations showed that he had ordered the illegal Watergate coverup.”  

Alvin Tillery is an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at Northwestern. His research and teaching interests are in the fields of American politics and political theory. His research in American politics focuses on American political development, racial and ethnic politics and media and politics. He can be reached at alvin.tillery@northwestern.edu.

Quote from Professor Tillery:
“President Trump’s admission that he did indeed ask the President of Ukraine to investigate the Biden family should change the calculus for Speaker Pelosi. Despite the fact that President Trump has repeatedly engaged in conduct -- lying to the American people, violating both the domestic and foreign emoluments clauses, and requesting election interference from a foreign power -- that would have led to the filing of articles of impeachment against other presidents, Speaker Pelosi has refused to act. 

“It is clear that her reticence has revolved around the old Democratic Leadership Council playbook that sees the path to political power as running through the opinions of ‘moderate’ white, swing voters. The rationale is to show these voters that you are legislating around their priorities and perhaps some of them will turn away from Mr. Trump in 2020 and expand the Democratic majority in purple districts. 

“Whether or not the tread lightly on impeachment strategy was working, Speaker Pelosi needs to abandon it or risk alienating the Democratic Party’s base voters, who are growing increasingly restive with the House Democrats’ inability to hold Mr. Trump accountable for his actions.” 

Also available for comment is Juliet Sorensenwho is clinical professor of law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. From 2003-2010, Sorensen was an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, focusing on fraud and public corruption. She can be reached at j-sorensen@law.northwestern.edu.