All You Need to Know About the Impeachment Process

Since the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency, citizens have been asking for impeachment. There have been protests, signs, social media posts and petitions calling for this major political action. 

Nearly three full years after the election of President Donald Trump, the United States House of Representatives has begun an official impeachment inquiry. While individuals have been demanding this  for quite some time, the recent release of Donald Trump’s phone records with Ukraine are what truly convinced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call for such an inquiry. With release of this news, many Americans were thrilled, and many Americans were outraged. The process of impeachment is one that takes months to complete and involves more than simply removing a president from office.

According to the United States Constitution, a president may be impeached for committing “high crimes and misdemeanors.” As with most everything in our nation’s founding document, these words are rather vague and do not give any description of what an impeachable offense actually is. 

The impeachment process begins in the House of Representatives when individuals believe that the President has behaved in a way that prohibits him from acting in the public service field. At this point, the House has a responsibility to begin an impeachment investigation. According to CBS news, the House of Representatives can vote on whether or not to go through with an impeachment inquiry, but this is not Constitutionally required. In the case of Donald Trump’s impeachment, Speaker Pelosi decided not to vote on impeachment. 

There are several reasons to request an impeachment. These range from general suspicion to specific offenses, but the House of Representatives has discretion to make this request. After the request is received, the House Judiciary Committee gathers as much information on the president via testimonies, investigations, and released records. 

Once the Judiciary Committee receives data and information on the President, it is relayed to the subcommittee on the Constitution. It is here that they decide if there is enough information to fully warrant an impeachment. If the subcommittee decides that the President has partaken in impeachable activities, they will begin to draft the Articles of Impeachment. After the Articles of Impeachment have been drafted, they are sent back to the Judiciary Committee for a vote. Once approved by the committee, the Articles are sent to the full House of Representatives. In the House, it takes a simple majority (51% approval) to pass an impeachment. After this vote, the House’s role in impeachment ends.

If the Articles are passed in the House of Representatives, they are delivered to the United States Senate. The rules in the Senate differ slightly. Firstly, the Senate floor becomes a trial room, with each senator serving as a member of a jury. Evidence is brought forth by the defendant, in this case the impeached officer. During a presidential impeachment, the Supreme Court Chief Justice presides over the trial. If any other official is being impeached, the Vice President will oversee the affairs. That being said, neither official has any say in what happens. 

After this trial has come to a close, the Senate will take a vote on whether or not to pass the impeachment. Unlike in the House of Representatives, an impeachment vote in the Senate requires a two-thirds majority to pass. If the Senate votes to impeach an official, there are two penalties that they can instate: removal of office or removal of office and prohibition from holding a position ever again. No criminal or civil charges can result from a congressional impeachment.

The process of impeachment is one that requires patience and understanding. It is not a simple “yes or no” question that can be answered in a matter of minutes, days, or even weeks. Impeachment has many steps and must go through hundreds of people before any force of action can be taken against an official. In the history of the United States, only 60 officials have been impeached by the House of Representatives, two of whom were presidents, and neither president was removed from office. Of the 60 individuals impeached in the House, only eight were convicted and removed from office by the Senate. It is hard to say what will happen in the impeachment process of President Donald Trump, but as you can see, there is a long way to go before any verdict is reached.

 

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