Updated: Jun 3
By Sam Gibbs.
What does impeachment mean? What is the process behind it? What happens when a president is impeached? For the third time in United States history, a president has been impeached. Both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached in the House, but not convicted in the Senate. Richard Nixon became the first president to resign after he was impeached and his removal was fairly certain. This news had led much of the nation to question what the hell that even means and if it is significant for the future of our country.
To keep it simple, impeachment refers to the process by which a legislative body levels charges against a government official. Impeachment itself does not mean the government official will be removed from office, rather it can be equated to a statement of charges against an individual, or an indictment. In order to impeach someone, both the Senate and the House of Representatives have to vote on the articles of impeachment, or the charges against the individual. A supermajority is required in order to effectively impeach. Once an individual is impeached, they face the possibility of conviction that comes down to another legislative vote.
So, where is the United States government in this process? To give some background, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, initiated an impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump in September of 2019. This was after a whistleblower alleged that Trump may have abused his power of presidency by withholding military aid in order to pressure the new president of the Ukraine, Volodymr Zelensky. Allegedly, Trump wanted to apply this pressure to Zelensky in order to force him to pursue investigations of Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and to investigate a theory that says Ukraine was behind the interference in the 2016 election, not Russia. In October, depositions of certain witnesses began, led by the Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs congressional committees. After these interviews began, the White House wrote a letter that they would not cooperate with the investigation. On October 31st, the House of Representatives voted to establish procedures for public hearings, which would begin in November. Twelve government officials then testified and gave evidence that Trump demanded political favors in exchange for official action. In December, the House Judiciary Committee unveiled the articles of impeachment (the charges); one for abuse of power, and one for obstruction of Congress. Both articles were approved, and the Judiciary Committee also specified the crimes as wire fraud and criminal bribery. On December 18th, the House voted to impeach the president. All Republicans voted against the articles.
After the vote in the House, the vote goes to the Senate. However, Pelosi has delayed this vote. She argued that the trial must be fair with witnesses and documents, which includes Trump’s top aides testifying. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has also led a movement to dismiss the charges. However, just a few days ago, Pelosi wrote a letter saying she is preparing to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate next week, with new information that has since been discovered. Pelosi ended the letter by saying, “In an impeachment trial, every Senator takes an oath to ‘do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.’ Every Senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the President or the Constitution.” Pelosi is trying to uphold values of justice and the beliefs of the American people to conduct a fair trial.
The Senate is controlled by Republicans, which likely means the impeachment will be voted down next week and Trump will not be put on trial. This means Trump will continue on without any fault. However, the mounting evidence against the President is astonishing and the impeachment vote in the House has made history. I hope as these investigations and trials continue on, that you all watch and read with great attention and effort. As Nancy Pelosi put it best, no one is above the law, not even the President.