This is the 4th time in America’s history that the House of Representatives has launched an impeachment inquiry into a president while he is serving the country. Not every impeachment inquiry has ended in impeachment or a president leaving office, but most impeachment inquiries and proceedings whatever the outcome usually divide the country in one way or another.
What has been a slow discussion murmuring in the House has now grown into a firestorm of fury over a recent phone call between Donald Trump and the President of the Ukraine. On Wednesday, September 25, the transcript of the conversation was released. There is also a whistleblower complaint that is being investigated. According to Donald Trump the call was “perfect and a very nice call. Once again, the democrats are on a witch hunt.”
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It would appear Trump’s base would agree. Within minutes of the impeachment inquiry being announced, phones were lighting up and money was being raised across the nation for Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.
What Exactly is Impeachment?
Most people think of impeachment when they refer to the highest office in the land. This is the process of removing a president from office. The Constitution says a president may be impeached and removed from office over charges described as “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Impeachment requires a majority vote of the House to impeach followed by a two-thirds majority of the Senate to convict and remove. The Constitution does not list every single detail of how to proceed. Unlike the criminal code, there are no specific rules of procedure. Impeachment is a fundamentally political process built by political people and has been rarely used over the course of American History. This is the 4th time Impeachment has been started.
Even though impeachment is political, it is universally understood to be very close to a judicial process. In parliamentary systems by contrast, it is understood that it is appropriate and indeed necessary to the legislature to topple the prime minister over policy disagreements. We pride ourselves in the United States that we have a process to remove a leader without government collapse or even a vote of no confidence. However, this vote is a step to prevent a possible breach in the government security.
Impeachment is more like a punishment for a crime committed and it is a protection for upholding the law of the Constitution.
How Many United States Presidents Have Been Impeached?
The House of Representatives has initiated impeachment proceedings for three presidents, but only two have actually been impeached. President Nixon resigned before he was impeached. Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson were both charged with articles of impeachment by the House and they were acquitted by the Senate.
Johnson was charged with 11 articles of impeachment. These were all because of his firing of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in 1868 and disagreements he had with Congressional Republicans over Civil War Reconstruction.
One of the articles of impeachment also called out Johnson for delivering remarks “with a loud voice, certain intemperate, inflammatory, and scandalous harangues,” and argued that his behavior was unbecoming of a president.
President Clinton, on the other hand, was charged with two articles of impeachment citing perjury and obstruction of justice.
Why are Presidents Impeached?
Presidents may be impeached for a variety of reasons according to the Constitution. As described by the Constitution, impeachable offenses include anything that falls under the terms of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Because the term “high crimes and misdemeanors” is very broad, House lawmakers have broad leeway in determining what actions they may see as worthy of an impeachment inquiry.
Presidents may be impeached if House lawmakers believe they have done something they consider to be an “impeachable offense.” Because it is a political process that overpowers a judicial process, there is a large amount of subjectivity in the process.
Across the impeachment inquiries that have been launched into presidents in the past, there is commonality. This is an abuse of executive power. Johnson was seen as violating the Tenure of Office Act and ignoring Congress when he fired Stanton. Clinton was seen as obstructing justice in his conduct related to the Lewinsky investigation. Nixon was seen as misusing government resources for his own political gain.
How Does the Formal Impeachment Process Work?
The Constitution does not give too much guidance on this process other than what was mentioned previously. Historical precedent has been set and the impeachment process will begin with an inquiry.
If the members of the House believe the president has committed something that falls into one of the categories of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” they have the ability to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. Today, formal inquiries were launched against two presidents, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, with the former considered more serious than the latter.
The opening of the inquiry will begin the first steps in the impeachment process and consists of House lawmakers gathering evidence, subpoenaing witnesses, and reviewing information about the president. It usually begins in the House Judiciary Committee. Interestingly, the chair of the committee, Jerry Nadler, has insisted the House is already undergoing an official impeachment inquiry.
Once House lawmakers’ investigation is complete, they can decide whether or not to recommend articles of Impeachment, or charges to be specifically brought against the president. The House Judiciary Committee would vote on these charges and then advance them to a vote by the full House. The House then decides if it officially wants to change the president on these counts, a move that requires a simple majority to pass.
To convict a president and remove him or her from office, it requires a two-thirds vote from the Senate or 67 Senators will have to vote for removal.
The Senate’s Role
The Senate’s role is to act as the court with all the evidence from the House. The charges will be reviewed and evaluated. The Senate will then have a trail and decide to acquit or convict. Given our Senate’s reputation, this Senate will acquit Donald Trump if this situation goes to a level this far.
How Fast will the Impeachment Process Happen?
Because of the election looming ahead in 2020, the democrats are anxious to move forward as quickly as possible to get the impeachment process completed. The democrats especially do not want the after-effects and the vibrations of this process to still linger into the Spring.
How does the public feel about impeachment our president at this time? According to recent polls once again, the country is divided on this decision. Democrats have a very real fear that the impeachment proceedings will further divide the country and fire up Donald Trump’s base right before the election.
Questions have been asked, “Why not let the election do the process?” Are the democrats worried about the election in 2020? Who stands to win? Right now, Joe Biden seems to be getting drug through the mud along with President Trump. You know who is quietly rising in the polls? Elizabeth Warren. She is benefitting from this whole Biden, Trump, Ukraine situation and staying completely away from this situation.
When leading democrats are asked why now? They respond, “Because this is the right thing to do.” They must believe it because the 2020 election is in jeopardy.
If the Democrats continue down the impeachment road, they need to be prepared to go all the way and have proof to make this stick or it will be a disaster for them in the 2020 elections. For all offices in national and local elections, it will be the red that will come across your screens on November 3 and will lead the headlines on November 4, 2020.