He Invited Donald Trump Jr. to Campus. Now He’s Facing Impeachment. – The New York Times
A sitting president is facing impeachment, accused of collusion and abusing his power. Support falls along political lines: The opposition party is determined to remove him, while his allies maintain he did nothing wrong.
But this impeachment inquiry is taking place far from Washington — even though a football stadium known as “The Swamp” looms nearby.
Student representatives at the University of Florida introduced a bill on Tuesday to impeach Michael Murphy, the student body president, accusing him of improperly using student fees to pay one of President Trump’s sons to speak on campus.
It all began when Mr. Murphy, a senior, invited Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host and adviser to the president’s campaign, to speak on campus and paid them $50,000 with university funds. Some students say the payment was a violation of the Student Senate code — and possibly the law.
The backlash intensified after the campus newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator, published emails showing that Mr. Murphy had spoken with a consultant for President Trump’s re-election committee to set up the visit and that Mr. Murphy had attended Mr. Trump’s inauguration.
Students who drafted the impeachment bill personally handed Mr. Murphy a copy of it on Tuesday night. They argue in the bill that Mr. Murphy’s use of the student funds violated the Student Senate code, which forbids spending student fees to support a political party. State law, they add, forbids using state funds, which cover some students’ fees, to support a political campaign.
Although they are sometimes in charge of allocating millions of dollars, student governments garner relatively little interest from students and their inner workings are rarely covered outside of campus newspapers. But on Wednesday, students in Gainesville seemed to know more about the controversy engulfing Mr. Murphy than who was testifying in Washington.
The visit from the younger Mr. Trump and Ms. Guilfoyle, and the furor surrounding Mr. Murphy, have led to a sour split on campus.
Jarrod Rodriguez, a junior and the treasurer for the University of Florida College Republicans, said the impeachment move was “a mirror image of the partisan politics at the national level.”
He said he had attended the talk and never viewed it as a campaign event. The drive to oust Mr. Murphy, he said, showed that the opposition party would look for anything to remove the elected president.
“I think that they have no cigar — in both cases,” he said.
Theresa Chapman, a senior who was handing out fliers and pins for Planned Parenthood on campus, saw things differently. She said the funds Mr. Murphy had spent to bring the president’s son to town could have been better spent on something more beneficial and less divisive.
“Clearly he’s just not fit,” Ms. Chapman said of Mr. Murphy, adding that the same applied to President Trump. “He’s not here to support the entire student body. Only a portion of it.”
The visit by the president’s son filled a campus auditorium on Oct. 10, but he was frequently interrupted and many protested outside, The Alligator reported. Before Mr. Trump’s speech with Ms. Guilfoyle, whom he is dating, some students had called for Mr. Murphy and several other student leaders to resign.
But the correspondence between Mr. Murphy and Caroline Wren, a Republican operative who is now a fund-raising consultant with a re-election committee for the president, was the last straw for the student representatives who filed the impeachment bill. They said the emails, which were obtained through a public records request by Mariana Castro, an alumna, and shared with the student newspaper, were proof that the speech was a campaign event.
“Impeachment became the only option,” said Ben Lima, a senior and one of the student representatives who sponsored the bill.
Ms. Wren said in a statement that she was not representing the Trump campaign when she emailed Mr. Murphy about inviting Mr. Trump to campus and that she had forgotten to remove her “Trump Victory” signature.
“After an initial call to discuss a potential visit, University of Florida representatives were connected to Donald Trump Jr.’s office,” she said.
Mr. Murphy did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But he told the campus newspaper that he had also tried to bring Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate, to campus, but that Mr. Sanders’s staff had turned the request down.
Beth Rotman, the director of money in politics and ethics for the good-government group Common Cause, said the payment appeared to cross the line, and warranted a thorough investigation.
“We’re talking about significant dollars, and public dollars, for a representative of a national political campaign to talk to adults on campus,” Ms. Rotman said, adding that she was glad young people were paying as close attention to their local representatives as federal watchdogs are for the president.
Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs reported from New York and Hannah Phillips from Gainesville, Fla.
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