The Lengthy Road to Impeachment
Updated: Jan 13
“The President, Vice President, and all Civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” (U.S Constitution). In the history of the U.S, there have only been two presidents that have been impeached; Presidents Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton. However, we may have a third president that may soon face a similar fate: Donald J. Trump.
A common misconception about impeachment is that it is the only step that a government must take in order to remove an official (in this case, the president) out of office. However, it should be noted the impeachment process involves many steps beginning with the House of Representatives (currently controlled by the Democrats) and, later, the Senate (currently controlled by the Republicans).
The Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives has recently completed the Impeachment inquiry consisting of initially, a closed-door investigation, and later a public hearing. During the public hearing, witnesses are called to testify before the House of Representatives and both the Democrat and Republican members are given the opportunity to ask the witnesses questions.
Because the Impeachment Inquiry is now completed, the Intelligence Committee has approved sending a report with its findings to the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives. This report was completed and made public on December 3, 2019.
The Judiciary Committee will hold further hearings during which the president and his attorney can attend and participate in the hearing. During this hearing, the president, through his attorney, can present their case, respond to evidence and cross-examine witnesses. After the hearings, the Judiciary Committee would vote whether there is sufficient ground for impeachment. A simple majority is required to pass.
If it passes, the Judiciary Committee would then draft the articles of impeachment. Articles of Impeachment are analogous to charges in a criminal proceeding. Once they are drafted and approved by the majority of the committee, the House of Representatives will then consider the articles of impeachment on the House floor after which point the House of Representatives will vote. Again, a simple majority is needed to pass. If any of the articles pass with a majority, the president will be impeached.
After impeachment, the case then goes to the Senate for removal consideration. In the Senate, a trial will be conducted with the House of Representatives presenting their case and the Senate serving as the jury. The chief justice of the United States (currently Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.) would be sworn to preside over the trial.
During the Senate trial, the Senate may propose a motion to dismiss the charges and all that is needed is a majority of the votes. If the charges are not dismissed, the Senate would then deliberate at the conclusion of the trial. The Senate would vote on each article of impeachment separately. A conviction of ⅔ vote is required for a conviction. If the Senate convicts the president on one or more articles, the president is removed from office.
So far, the President’s impeachment inquiry revolves around the allegation of bribery, obstruction of justice, soliciting assistant from a foreign government related to a U.S election, abuse of power, and most recently, the intimidation of a witness. Now that the impeachment inquiry is completed, the Judiciary Committee hearings will soon begin in the House of Representatives. After the Judiciary Committee hearings, the Articles of Impeachment will then be drafted and the rest of the steps outlined above will follow.
Where We Stand Today
The Intelligence Committee report was just approved and sent to the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representative, December 3, 2019. Trump’s impeachment was confirmed on December 18, 2019 -- nearly 21 years after the last president, Bill Clinton, was impeached on December 19, 1998. Though his impeachment occurred in the House, it’s unlikely for Trump to be removed by the Senate. Ultimately, no matter where you stand on the issue of President Trump’s impeachment and possible removal, there is one thing that is undisputed: this is history in the making.