To Impeach Or Not To Impeach

The initiation of impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump requires understanding the U.S. Constitution (Articles I and II) and the history of impeachment, the Whistleblower Protection Act, Ukraine and its new president — and many points of view. 
Download Classroom Worksheets (PDF) 

In late September the U.S. Constitution, the Whistleblower Protection Act, U.S. relations with Ukraine, and the balance of powers of the executive and legislative branches were in the spotlight and under the microscope.


The U.S. House of Representatives initiated impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump after an unidentified whistleblower complaint was disclosed. Trump’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is central to the investigation. What did the president seek and was it an impeachable offense?


The role of a whistleblower, the responsibility of Office of the Inspector General, and the history of presidential impeachment are also elements to understanding the historic importance of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision.


This guide presents Post coverage, Nancy Pelosi’s official statement, and resources to discuss and study the steps of impeachment. Editorial cartoons of Tom Toles, a Post editorial, letters to the editor, and columns and guest commentary are included to present differing perspectives. Questions to guide student discussion and activities to stimulate inquiry are included.


These are historic and rare actions. Should the House of Representatives impeach or not? Should the next step — a trial by the U.S. Senate — be held?


October 2019

Resource Graphic 

Read a First Draft of History
Journalism, Media Literacy, Social Studies, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Former Washington Post President and Publisher Philip L. Graham called the newspaper the first rough draft of history. The Post published “Pelosi announces impeachment inquiry, says Trump’s courting of foreign political help is a ‘betrayal of national security’” or "House opens impeachment inquiry" on its website and front page September 25, 2019, print edition.


Read and discuss the news story of Pelosi’s historic decision. The House impeachment inquiry will determine if presidential words and actions are such to lead to a trial in the Senate. Questions might include:

• What elements of the news article are of interest now and in the future?

• Are all references, quotations and details clear? Readers now and in the future will understand the political and legal context?

• In what ways is this article the "first rough draft of history"? 

• What will be the essential documents for historians when they research and study this impeachment inquiry of a U.S. president?


The KidsPost article, "President's phone call to Ukrainian leader ignites inquiry," may also be read.


Read Her Words

English, Journalism, Reading, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Also included in one of three resource guides this month is “Pelosi’s statement: ‘The President must be held accountable. No one is above the law.’” Read and discuss the reasons she decided to officially begin an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

• What position does she hold that gives her the authority to make the decision?

• What event was the catalyst for her decision to open an impeachment inquiry?

• What professional background informs her decision?


Read the Whistleblower Complaint

English, Journalism, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Playing a major role in the impeachment inquiry is a whistleblower. Before reading the whistleblower’s letter, discuss with students the role of a whistleblower, why his or her identity is withheld and the Whistleblower Protection Act.


Lawmakers released the whistleblower complaint of concerns. At its heart is President Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy


Teachers may pair this document with Post National Security reporters’ article, “Whistleblower claimed that Trump abused his office and that White House officials tried to cover it up.”


What’s at the Root of Impeach?

English, Reading, Social Studies, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Word Study covers the etymologic and historic elements of the word “impeach.”

Three examples of impeachment from earlier times are included to give a sense of the people and reasons for impeachment. Give students "Word Study: A Word About Impeach.”


Understand the Impeachment Process

Social Studies, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Give students “Steps to Impeachment.” Sources for this handout include the National Archives and Records Administration, archives of the House of Representatives, Federalist 65, Findlaw and the U.S. Constitution.


The Washington Post published “What you need to know about impeachment inquiry into Trump.” To read the complete article — more questions and answers that relate directly to the current inquiry — visit The Fix: “What you need to know about the impeachment inquiry into Trump.” The Q&A was written by Amber Phillips and published on September 30, 2019.

The full article is accompanied with an online video on the impeachment process.


Who Does the House Impeach?
Social Studies, U.S. Government, U.S. History

The House of Representatives maintains a record of the sessions of Congress and other responsibilities assigned it. This includes the online list: Individuals Impeached by the House of Representatives. Discussion of the list might include: 

• Review and discuss the people, positions held and action taken.

• What role is played by House Managers? Teachers may have students check the links to individuals who have been house managers. What do their biographies tell about them?

• How long was the longest trial? The shortest trial? Any correlation between length of trial and verdict?


Teachers could also share the Retropolis article, "Country's first impeachment effort was led by the president's own party." It gives a lively overview of the President John Tyler impeachment efforts.

History and Impeachment
Resource Graphic 

Where in the world is Ukraine?

Geography, U.S. Government

A map, fast facts and flag are provided to introduce students to Ukraine. Give students Ukraine.

• What do students know of the countries that surround it?

• What is the economic and political importance of the Black Sea?

• Locate the separatists-controlled area of Ukraine and Transnistria in Moldova. What is happening in these areas?


What are 5 Myths About Ukraine?

Political Science, U.S. Government, World History

In the Five Myths About … weekly series, The Post calls of experts in current topics of interest to challenge “everything you think you know.” It is published in Sunday’s Outlook section.


Give students “5 Myths About Ukraine.” Teachers may wish to read the introduction together, then assign groups to read a myth to present to the class. Five suggested responses are related to each of the myths. 


Help for a Modern Ukraine?

Business, Economics, U.S. Government, U.S. History

Many perspectives can be found on the political, economic and diplomatic relation of the U.S. and Ukraine over decades. The current impeachment inquiry threw a spotlight on the relation of the two countries. Below are Post pieces that present different angles.

• “The GOP theory that Ukraine ‘set up’ Trump” [Fact Checker]

• “Profit, not politics: Trump allies sought Ukraine gas deal” [news]

• “The administration is exporting its own corruption to Ukraine” [opinion]

• “Democrats’ double standard on Ukraine” [opinion]

• Here’s a timeline of Trump’s latest scandal. It’s damning.” [opinion]

• “Seven freshman Democrats: These allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect  [letter to the editor]



What’s Ukraine Got to Do With It?

Political Science, U.S. Government, World History

Recently-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a phone call from President Donald Trump. It turned out to be more than a congratulatory message.


Among the questions raised by American citizens was why the U.S. gives aid to other countries. To answer the question as it relates to Ukraine, Evelyn Farkas, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, wrote a guest explanatory commentary. Read and discuss “We aid Ukraine to help it fight Russia. By holding back support, Trump helped Putin.”

• Are there other reasons for giving aid to Ukraine?

• What other questions do you have about the U.S. relation to Ukraine?

For further study of the topics in this guide, teachers could assign students or student teams one of the questions in "Ukraine, Whistleblowers and the President."


What other countries does the U.S. provide economic support? What are the reasons for this financial aid?


Read About Impeachment

Read the Editorial Cartoons

Art, Journalism, U.S. History, Visual Arts

The Post’s editorial cartoonist Tom Toles provides visual commentary on current events, issues and concerns. They are his views.  Give students Tom Toles | Impeachment Inquiry. Questions are provided in A Closer Look | Impeachment Inquiry. These could be used to stimulate group or class discussion while reading the four cartoons or for individual student work.


Read an Editorial

English, Journalism, Media Literacy

The Washington Post editorial board is autonomous from the news staff. Editorials are not signed. The board meets, discusses current events and topics, agree on the editorial board’s stand and select a member with expertise in that area to write the editorial.


Read and discuss “A distraction that can’t be ignored: Mr. Trump must be held accountable for his intimidation tactics.” Margins are set wider so students have room to annotate as they read.


Think Like a Reporter — Inquire

Journalism, Social Studies, U.S. Government, U.S. History

The Think Like a Reporter activities give students some guidance in the process of gathering facts, observing events, writing and editing journalistic pieces. In this issue, students are given guidance in explaining a constitutional or legal concept. What does your school community know and what should they know and understand?


Give students "Think Like a Reporter: Explain a Constitutional (or Legal) Concept" to read and discuss. Students might work in reporting teams to follow the steps on a topic of their choice.


Read Commentary and Columns

English, Journalism, Media Literacy

Columns are the opinion of knowledgeable reporters. Guest commentary are also the opinion of knowledgeable experts in different fields. They are examples of persuasive essays.


In addition to its editorials and editorial cartoons, The Post has a wide variety of opinions published through the voices of their columnists, guest commentators, and letters to the editor.


1. “Impeach Trump. But don’t necessarily try him in the Senate.

Laurence H. Tribe


2. “An impeachment inquiry is risky. Not opening one is riskier.”

Eugene Robinson


3. “Not too fast, not too slow. Democrats have to get impeachment just right.
E. J. Dionne Jr.


4. “Democrats sprint ahead of the evidence
Marc A. Thiessen


Informational Graphics Tell a Story

Art, Journalism, Mathematics, Media Literacy,Technology, Visual Arts

Telling the story using informational graphics can be quicker and easier to understand than paragraphs. Use the four following Post informational graphics to illustrate different approaches.


Note how these are collaborations or team projects. Teachers might form teams to create a graphic about a topic related to your school. Perhaps price of school lunches then and now, opinion on a school board decision, Homecoming or prom expenses.


1. “Why now? The moments that moved Pelosi and House Democrats toward impeachment”

2. How Impeachment works

3. “Where House Democrats stand on impeaching Trump

4. “Where House members stand on impeaching Trump


Post NIE Guide Editor | Carol Lange
Post NIE Guide Art Editor | Carol Porter

Resource Graphic 
In The Know 

Acquit To relieve someone from a criminal charge; to declare not guilty
Betrayal Disloyalty, infidelity, treason
Bribery Offering, giving, receiving or soliciting of something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public or legal duties, The expectation of a particular voluntary action in return is what makes the difference between a bribe and a private demonstration of goodwill.
Checks-and-balances Limits imposed on all branches of a government; a system that allows each branch of a government to amend or veto acts of another branch so as to prevent any one branch from exerting too much power 
System or plan that comes into operation in the event of something going wrong or that is there to prevent such an occurrence; if one part does not work, the whole does not become dangerous
Hearing Proceeding before the court at which an issue or fact or law is heard, evidence presented, and a decision made
High crimes and misdemeanors “High” refers to the office and not the offense. The phrase was common when the U.S. Constitution was written; phrase historically used to cover a broad range of crimes. In Federalist No. 65,  Alexander Hamilton said, "...those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself."
Indictment Formal accusation initiating a criminal case

Accuse of misconduct. Fundamental constitutional power belonging to Congress. This safeguard against corruption can be initiated against federal officeholders from a cabinet member to the president and the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.


The U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) gives the House of Representatives the sole power to impeach (make formal charges against). In Article 1, Section 3, the Senate has the sole power to try impeachments.

Impeachment, constitutional

Trial of a public official for charges of illegal acts committed in the performance of public duty. The constitutional process, not the conviction or removal from office, in which the House of Representatives may “impeach” high officers of the federal government for trial in the Senate.


Impeachment, legal

Discredit a witness by showing that he or she is not telling the truth or does not have a reliable basis for the testimony given. Rules of evidence govern what type of questioning may be used to impeach a witness.



Lesser crime punishable by a fine and/or county jail time for up to one year. “High crimes and misdemeanors” referred to in the U.S. Constitution are felonies.

National security         Concept that a government, along with its parliaments, should protect the state and its citizens against all kind of “national” crises through a variety of powerful means, such as political power, diplomacy, economic power and military might. Also considered are viable infrastructure, environmental and energy security, and cybersecurity and electronic protection.
Partisan A committed member of a political party; used for politicians who strongly support their party’s policies and are reluctant to compromise with their political opponents

Betrayal of one’s own country by waging war against it or by consciously or purposely acting to aid its enemies. Under Article III, Section 3, of the U.S. Constitution, any person who levies war against the United States and adheres to its enemies by giving them Aid and Comfort has committed treason. The Treason Clause applies only to disloyal acts committed during times of war.

Undue influence To offer or provide payment in order to persuade someone with a responsibility to betray that responsibility
U.S. Constitution

The uniting document, vesting the power of the union in the people. Supreme law of the U.S.



Whistleblower Employee who brings wrongdoings by an employer or other employees to the attention of government or law enforcement agency and who is protected with rights and remedies for retaliation. The Whistleblower Protection Act, enacted in 1989 and strengthened in 2012, protects people who work for the federal government from potential retaliation.

Sources: The Legal Dictionary; legal dictionary; Merriam-Webster Dictionary; and other online resources as noted

Answers. A Word About Impeach

1. Words would include pedestrian, pedicure and impede.

2. British history of impeachment.

3. Be sure to read Article I, Sections 2 and 3; Article II, Section 2, Section 2 and 4; Article III, Sections 2 and 3

4. Distinguish between impeachment inquires and impeachment trial in the Senate. What were the reason(s) for the initiation of an inquiry. U.S. Presidents John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and William J. “Bill” Clinton

5. Teachers should encourage students to look at a variety of sources. Discuss the reasons given.

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

The District of Columbia has adopted the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics. In addition, DCPS has adopted new learning standards in arts, health and physical education, science, social studies, technology and world languages.


U.S. Government. Students explain the fundamental principles and moral values of the American Republic as expressed in the U.S. Constitution and other essential documents of American democracy. (12.1)

Explain how the Founding Fathers’ realistic view of human nature led directly to the establishment of a constitutional system that limited the power of the governors and the governed as articulated in The Federalist Papers.

Describe the systems of separated and shared powers, the role of organized interests (Federalist Paper Number 10), checks and balances (Federalist Paper Number 51), the importance of an independent judiciary (Federalist Paper Number 78), enumerated powers, rule of law, federalism, and civilian control of the military. 

U.S. Government. Students analyze the unique roles and responsibilities of the three branches of government as established by the U.S. Constitution.

4. Discuss Article II of the Constitution as it relates to the executive branch, including eligibility for office and length of term, election to and removal from office, the oath of office, and the enumerated executive powers.



Academic Content Standards may be found at

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

English. Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings. CCR Anchor Standard 5


American Government. The student will evaluate how the principles of government assist or impede the functioning of government by

• Describing how the Constitution provides for separation of powers and check and balances.

• Comparing and contrasting the powers, roles, and responsibilities of local, state and national executives


The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

Government. The student will apply social science skills to understand the Constitution of the United States by

a)  examining the ratification debates and The Federalist;

c)  examining the fundamental principles upon which the Constitution of the United States is based, including the rule of law, consent of the governed, limited government, separation of powers, and federalism;

d) defining the structure of the national government outlined in Article I, Article II, and Article III; (GOVT. 4)


Government. The student will apply social science skills to understand the organization and powers of the national government by

a)  examining the legislative, executive, and judicial branches;

b) analyzing the relationships among the three branches in a system of checks and balances and separation of powers; (GOVT.7)


Academic Content Standards may be found at