Kate McCabe / Gavel Media

The Nuanced Process of Presidential Impeachment

President Trump has been impeached. The House of Representatives voted last month on multiple articles of impeachment, and now the Senate is deciding his fate, with a high likelihood of acquittal. The media updates its news on a day-to-day basis, but many Americans are left wondering how, exactly, the whole process works. Voters need this essential information, as an election will be taking place just months from now. Most importantly, the person on trial will also be on the ballot. A concise understanding of the whole trial is more than necessary. 

Impeachment and Removal is a sacred process that the founders placed in the Constitution to ensure that Presidents who violate their oath are restrained from their positions. As of 2020, Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump are the only Presidents to have been impeached, with Johnson and Clinton both being acquitted by the Senate. 

To be impeached, the Speaker must open an impeachment inquiry, which is then turned over to the Judiciary committee to draft the articles. If the committee and House reach a simple majority, then the articles are sent to the Senate. Seven impeachment managers are selected as representatives from the House to serve as prosecutors with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. A supermajority of the House (two-thirds) must vote in favor of the charges. 

Trump’s inquiry and impeachment started when the public discovered that he had coerced Ukraine to either investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, or face a lack of desperately needed military aid from the U.S. Democrats in the House decided to open an inquiry after the Mueller investigation concluded in March 2019. However, unlike the previous investigation, there was complete evidence for the quid pro quo between Trump and Ukraine. 

It seems improbable that Trump will be removed from office. The U.S. Senate is currently controlled by a Republican majority, and it is unlikely that Democrats will find enough senators to reach the 66-person threshold required for his removal. Further witnesses have been prevented from testifying, which diminishes the likelihood of this outcome. 

The third Presidential impeachment is a significant–albeit disappointing–moment in history, and one that Americans need to understand. The details of this process, from initiating inquiries to declaring acquittals (or removals), reveal the priorities of the American government and its mode of operation in addressing the conduct of this country’s leaders. An impeachment is more than a headline, it is a display of fervent governmental action taken at a time of crisis.

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