As It Happens

At a Florida university, student senators are also trying to impeach their president

Donald Trump isn't the only president in the United States facing a possible impeachment right now.

Student president accused of misusing $50K in student fees to bring Donald Trump Jr. to campus

Donald Trump Jr.'s speech at the University of Florida has prompted impeachment hearings against the student body president. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
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Donald Trump isn't the only president facing a possible impeachment in the United States right now.

Michael Murphy, the University of Florida's student government president, is also facing an impeachment hearing for spending $50,000 US in student fees to bring Donald Trump Jr., the U.S. president's eldest son, to campus on Oct. 10.

Those looking to remove him from office say he did it in collaboration with a Trump fundraiser, in violation of campus rules that prohibit using student funds to support political campaigns. 

Student senators filed a resolution on Tuesday to impeach Murphy for malfeasance and abuse of power — a day before the first public hearing on the Trump impeachment inquiry in Washington.

"There's a lot of interesting parallels between us seeking the impeachment of President Murphy here at UF and the Democrats seeking the impeachment of President Trump up in Washington," student senator Claudia Tio told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.

"For us, it's not really a issue of Republican versus Democrat. It's more of an issue of directly violating student body law."

Murphy has consistently denied any wrongdoing. He did not respond to a request for comment from As It Happens. 

Trump Jr. keynote speech 

The Senate resolution accuses Murphy of spending mandatory student fees to push his own political beliefs when he brought Trump Jr., and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, to give a keynote speech on campus last month.

The president's son and his partner have been touring the country, largely to promote his new book Triggered, and their appearances at U.S. campuses have frequently been met with protests. The University of Florida was no exception. 

During the event, Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle praised Murphy for hosting them despite student backlash.

A Trump supporter yells at counter-protesters outside a book promotion by Donald Trump Jr. at the UCLA campus in Westwood, Calif., last week. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Murphy has repeatedly denied the event was partisan in nature. He told the Independent Florida Alligator, the school's student newspaper, that he also extended an invitation to Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential hopeful.

"The only difference was Sen. Sanders' non-campaign staff declined our invitation to speak in his official capacity," Murphy wrote in an e-mail 

"Any attempt to try and separate one from the other with allegations of impropriety is deceptive and inflammatory." 

Alleged campaign connections 

The difference, says Tio, is how he went about it.

Emails obtained by the Alligator show that a Trump re-election campaign official personally asked Murphy in September to bring Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle to campus.

"We met at my house on the 4th of July," Caroline Wren, a national finance consultant of Trump Victory, wrote Murphy in a Sept. 10 email obtained by the student newspaper.

"I wanted to follow up with you regarding a speaking engagement at the University of Florida for Donald Trump Jr."

Michael Murphy is the president of the student government at the University of Florida. (University of Florida Board of Trustees)

In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, Wren said she met Murphy for the first time in the summer, "when he expressed interest in bringing Donald Trump Jr. to campus."

"I followed up with him via my private email in my personal capacity and mistakenly forgot to remove my Trump Victory signature," she wrote. "After an initial call to discuss a potential visit, University of Florida representatives were connected to Donald Trump Jr's office."

Supporters stand by Murphy 

Just like Republicans in Washington have stood by Trump, so have Murphy's supporters defended their president from what they perceive as a biased proceeding. 

Jarrod Rodriguez, treasurer of UF's College Republicans group, told the Tampa Bay Times there is no evidence of an impeachable offense.

"I'm not saying that it doesn't raise any eyebrows, but it also isn't the nail in the coffin," he said. 

Claudia Tio is a student government senator at University of Florida. (Submitted by Claudia Tio)

Tio admits she was opposed to Trump Jr.'s visit even before news broke of the alleged campaign co-ordination. 

"I'm a woman of colour and the Trump campaign has directly spewed rhetoric that has been hurtful to me and my community," Tio said.

"But after learning about the co-ordination between him and the Trump Victory fund, I was just more appalled because it it's kind of like it forced students to subsidize political speech that they didn't agree with."

She says she would have also pursued impeachment hearings if Murphy had been accused of co-ordinating with a Democratic campaign official. 

What happens next?

Much like the Democrats in Washington, anti-Murphy senators have a long road ahead toward impeachment.

The school's student government is divided into three branches — the executive branch, headed by Murphy; the legislative branch, which includes the Senate; and the judicial branch.

Murphy will be allowed to testify and present evidence in his favour in front of half of the Senate, before they vote on his impeachment.

If at least two-thirds of the group votes to impeach, he will be suspended, and the other half of the Senate vote on whether to permanently impeach him.

"I think it has far reaching implications for people everywhere, not just here at UF or even just in Florida," Tio said.

"If we're going to use these public funds to host a partisan political event, what's stopping us from using other public funds that more people pay into in the future to pay for partisan political events? It's a slippery slope."


Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview with Claudia Tio produced by Jeanne Armstrong.

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