Local perspectives on impeachment: Students and political groups divided in predictions of impeachment’s impact on presidency


Kathy Fang

A demonstrator at a Cupertino pro-impeachment rally on Tuesday holds out an electric candle at cars turning onto Stevens Creek Boulevard. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in various locations around the Bay Area to voice their support of the articles of impeachment, which the House voted to pass on Wednesday, making President Donald Trump the third ever U.S. president to be impeached.

by Eric Fang and Varsha Rammohan

When the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday, upper school students and local political groups expressed mixed support. Few reacted with surprise. 

Many local residents have followed the impeachment proceedings since the House launched a formal inquiry in September.

“I think impeachment was coming for a long time from all the talk the last few months,” Amanda Cheung (12) said. “The current political climate is so polarized that no one on either side will take this impeachment as new news.”

By approving two articles of impeachment⁠—abuse of power and obstruction of Congress⁠—on Wednesday evening, the House made Trump the third ever U.S. president to be impeached.

A Senate trial to convict or acquit the president is slated to occur in the coming months. If convicted, the president will be removed from office, and Vice President Mike Pence will take his place. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has yet to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, making a start date for the trial uncertain.

Local residents vary in their predictions of how impeachment will impact Trump’s presidency and the 2020 presidential election, though no one interviewed believed that the Senate will convict Trump and remove him from office. 

House votes on the articles of impeachment largely fell along party lines, and similar partisanship is expected in the trial. Republicans control the Senate 53 to 47, and conviction requires a two-thirds majority vote. 

“Acquittal in the Senate is all but inevitable, unless some miracle strikes from the heavens,” Jack Hsieh (9) said. “However, this does not alleviate the people and the government from our duty to uphold the American ideals as detailed in the Constitution.”

Los Gatos geopolitical forecaster Kjirste Morrell anticipated that impeachment will have a “minimal” effect on the rest of Trump’s presidency and Bay Area politics. All Bay Area House representatives voted in favor of impeachment. 

“One of the major impacts of impeachment is it’s making Trump anxious, and he seems to be even more unbalanced than usual,” Morrell said. “Maybe there will be some kind of damning testimony that comes out of [the Senate trial], but I don’t think we can expect that given the last more than four years really.” 

Trump has reacted to his impeachment with over 100 tweets and retweets on the subject since Wednesday, calling the hearings “harassment” and “a total witch hunt.” 


Besides his social media output, Julia Biswas (11), who is involved in social activism through volunteering and social media, doubts that Trump’s behavior will change as a result of impeachment. 

“No one really knows what Trump is doing anyway, so I feel like his presidency will likely continue in a similar manner as it currently is,” she said. 

Santa Clara County Republican Party chairman Shane O’Connolly believed that impeachment would help the president by making Democrats look like “sore losers” of the 2016 presidential election. He remained unconvinced that Trump is guilty of any crime.

“It was like [Democrats] had a conclusion, which was the president was guilty of something, and then they went about trying to build a case based on hearsay that supported their conclusion,” O’Connolly said. “It was backwards.”

O’Connolly’s view is echoed by many Republicans who see impeachment as part of a longstanding partisan attack against Trump.   

“We went through the Mueller reports, we went through other accusations on taxes, you name it. Now we’ve got a phone call we feel is worthy of impeachment,” Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) said. “You know, you got a procedure where there is really no due process offered.”

Trump’s approval rating from a Gallup poll conducted between Dec. 12 and 15 was at 45 percent, a 6 percent increase from when the impeachment inquiry started in late September. In the same poll, support for impeachment, at 46 percent, showed a six percent decrease since October. 

Some Democrats who supported impeachment nonetheless expressed concern that it may turn voters away from the Democratic party. 

“I was very impressed with the courage shown by many of the House Democrats in vulnerable, swing districts. By voting to impeach President Trump, I think they did the right thing, despite the fact that that vote may cost them their seats,” said Ethan Choi (11), co-founder of the upper school political activism club Voices of Youth. “In terms of the 2020 election, I’m worried that the GOP talking point about how Democrats are solely focused on impeachment will resonate with and affect voters.”

Others believe that the impeachment results will enable the electorate to pay more attention to Trump’s past actions, damaging his prospects in the next presidential election.

“I think impeachment has really helped the public understand what Trump has done in a way that I think if there wasn’t an impeachment, it would have been the news for a day or two, and then people would have moved on because they would have said, ‘Oh, there’ll be no consequence to this. This is just another crazy thing that Trump has done,’” said Ryan Globus, finance director of Silicon Valley Young Democrats, a local advocacy group. 

The impeachment proceedings have prompted many to pay more attention to national politics, especially with the 2020 election approaching. 

“I personally am unsure of how impeachment will affect the upcoming presidential election exactly, but I do know that it has made it all the more important,” Jai Bahri (12) said. “As much as Congress checks the executive and vice versa, it is up to the people to check their government.”

Like many upper school students, Jai followed the impeachment hearings on multiple news outlets and intends to track the Senate trial as well. 

Students discussed impeachment in AP U.S. Government and Politics classes and in political clubs. Voices of Youth held two presentations in October and November recapping the hearings for interested students.  

The night before the impeachment vote, thousands of Bay Area protesters attended pro-impeachment demonstrations spanning from Cupertino to San Francisco. A coalition of liberal groups including MoveOn.org and Indivisible organized over 600 such rallies across the country.  

“[The Bay Area demonstrators] are part of a national movement. When you look at the the compilation of the different marches from Tuesday night, it’s from every state in the union,” Rebecca Elliot, an admin of the San Jose branch of Indivisible, said. “It’s the unity, the camaraderie, the morale boost, the knowing you’re not alone that encourages people to get involved.”

In the coming months, local political groups like Indivisible San Jose, Together We Will/Indivisible-Los Gatos and Silicon Valley Young Democrats plan to focus not on impeachment but on voter registration and promoting candidates for local office.  

“We should take a few moments to enjoy the moment,” Elliot said, regarding Trump’s impeachment. “And then we have to realize that the tough fight of trying to save our democracy and protect the Constitution—it’s not over.” 

Impeachment Explained: Latest developments in the impeachment process

With the House’s historic vote to impeach the president for only the third time in U.S. history, what exactly has President Trump been impeached for? What might happen in the Senate trial, the next step in the impeachment process? 

What are articles of impeachment?

Articles of impeachment are the charges that are issued to a government official in order to formally start the impeachment process. The articles of impeachment against Trump charged him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

What are abuse of power and obstruction of Congress? 

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, who filed the articles of impeachment, defined Trump’s abuse of power as soliciting the interference of Ukraine in the 2020 election for “personal political benefit” and compromising national security. 

The second article outlined the president’s obstruction of Congress charge as directing the White House, executive branch agencies and executive branch officials to “defy lawful subpoenas” and withhold documents and records. 

How will the Senate trial work?

According to Senate procedural rules, the House will act as the prosecutors in the trial. A group of House members chosen by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and voted on by the House will act as the “impeachment managers” and argue for Trump’s removal before the Senate. 

Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial and rule on rules of evidence. If a senator disagrees with Roberts’ ruling, the senator has the power to overrule and defer the vote to the full Senate body. 

A two-thirds majority vote, or the vote of 67 Senators, is required to convict Trump and remove him from office. 

What might happen in the Senate trial?

Pelosi has yet to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, making a timeline for the trial uncertain. In her weekly press conference the day after the impeachment vote, Pelosi expressed doubt that the Senate would conduct a fair trial. 

While the House called witnesses and held public impeachment testimonies, the House’s hearings were only the investigation into and charging of the president. This means that the Senate trial may include new information and even new witnesses in the trial. 

Witnesses can be called in the trial with a majority vote in the Senate. At the same time, the Constitution doesn’t require the Senate, which is currently dominated by Republicans, to call witnesses at all.  

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Dec. 15, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer outlined how Democrats hope the trial will run, including the calling of at least four Trump officials as witnesses. McConnell rejected Schumer’s request on the Senate floor on Dec. 17, claiming, “It’s the House’s duty to investigate.” 

What might result from the Senate trial?

If the Senate convicts the president of either abuse of power or obstruction of Congress, President Trump will be the first president to be removed from office, and Vice President Mike Pence will serve as president for the rest of Trump’s term. 

Currently, the much more likely outcome is that Trump will be acquitted in the Senate due to the Republican majority. 

What might we expect from media coverage of the trial?

News cameras are allowed in the trial but only on the person speaking. Some deliberations may occur behind closed doors, with no TV cameras, as occurred during former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999. 

Additional reporting by Arya Maheshwari and Anthony Xu