Throughout the past 50 years, students in Hamilton’s Program in Washington, D.C., have had an up-close look at Constitutional crises and political fireworks while living, learning, and interning in the nation’s capital. This semester has been no exception, with the potential impeachment of President Trump.
Thanks to the help of Congressman Matt Cartwright ’83, P’15, DC students witnessed the impeachment inquiry vote from the gallery in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I think that regardless of your politics, everyone recognized that this was a historic moment — only the fourth time in U.S. history that the House had decided to invoke the Constitutional process of impeachment,” said DC Program Director and Government Professor Phil Klinkner. “On a lighter note, it [was] fun to watch my students geek out when they [saw] famous politicians in the flesh: ‘OMG, it's AOC.’ ‘There's Nancy Pelosi.’ ‘Is that Jim Jordan?’ I have to admit that I did as well,” Klinkner said.
Nowhere has impeachment felt more pronounced than within the House. Due to non-disclosure agreements, congressional staff and interns are not permitted to disclose information about constituent calls. But talking off-the-record, interns working in both Democratic and Republican offices have certainly felt the nature and number of calls from constituents change.
Though congressional interns didn’t notice the work of their office’s legislative staff change after the start of the inquiry, many noted that the impeachment investigation led to significant increases in the number of calls from constituents, from those supporting impeachment and those opposed. One intern said that since the impeachment inquiry began, “it’s been a landslide [of calls].”
Out of 15 Hamilton students in the DC Program this semester, eight worked in Congress — five in the House and three in the Senate. For them, the impeachment inquiry has had other effects on their internships, such as long lines to get into Longworth House Office Building where the public impeachment hearings were held in the Ways and Means Committee Room. And for others, it’s meant threats and protests by constituents.
The investigation also impacted the work of students interning in the private sector. Gianni Hill ’21 worked at the Glover Park Group, a strategic communications consulting firm. Hill said that the impeachment investigation has had impacts on national polling. “The national polls primarily focused on impeachment after the investigation began,” he said. At the end of his internship, Hill noted that “impeachment-related questions have now consumed almost every national poll compared to when I began my job.”
The impeachment inquiry has also affected student’s internships at organizations with staff who were involved in the Ukraine scandal. According to Claire O’Brien ’21, who interned at the McCain Institute, “when I first heard about the impeachment inquiry, I assumed my job would remain unaffected, working at a non-partisan international relations think tank.”
That changed when the Director of the McCain Institute Kurt Volker, former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, became embroiled in the impeachment investigation. After it broke that Volker was involved in the Ukraine scandal, according to O’Brien, “increased media scrutiny on my workplace certainly changed the dynamic of my semester.”
On the Senate side, Phillip Gow ’21, who worked as a legislative intern in the office of Senator Pat Toomey, did not feel that his job was impacted by impeachment. “In short, it has not impacted my day-to-day operations,” Gow said. “It is my understanding that this is largely a House of Representatives operation, but I certainly kept up-to-date on what was going on.”
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24, students had only been working at their internships for three weeks. Since that time, they have engaged in countless discussions on the subject. And with the House Judiciary Committee now having recommended two articles of impeachment against President Trump, Hamilton’s DC participants prepare to head home for winter break just missing the House vote. Nevertheless, they will leave the capital being witnesses to a pivotal moment in history.