A historical vote from the US congress swamped US President Donald Trump last December 18, as it calls for his impeachment from the office. Dubbed as his ultimate political crisis, the billionaire’s record will be forever stained as a great divide across America has once again resurfaced. To date, President Trump will only be the third president in America to have ever been charged with “high crimes abuse and misdemeanors”.
The House of Representatives and the Democratic majority, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has approved two articles of impeachment, which is pertains to obstruction of Congress and abuse of office, a political debate topic exchanged by the representatives throughout the day.
How It Progressed to the Impeachment
Upon thorough investigation, The House of Representatives have decided to impeach Trump on grounds of abuse of power, as well as his act of obstructing the Congress.
The Democratic party has accused Trump of coercion, wherein he pressured Ukraine to expose his political rival and former vice president, Joe Biden, who is now a favorite in the 2020 Democratic presidential race. Furthermore, they also postulate that the president has obstructed the House’s investigations through the refusal of complying with the subpoenas and ordering the members of his administration to follow suit.
The impeachment inquiry began in September, subsequently after a whistler-blower complaint reached the House. The complaint surrounds a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last July 25, wherein Trump coerced the latter to launch an investigation on Biden and his son. The investigation has led to nothing, however, as no evidence has been gathered against the Bidens.
According to BBC News, Should the charges be approved by both branches of the government – the Congress and the Senate, Trump would then be hailed as the third US president ever impeached.
The Process of Impeachment: How Does it Work?
As with many Constitutions around the world, the process of impeachment was established by the framers of the American Constitution. This was made for the president, which allows other officials to accuse a president of a certain crime, which will then lead to a trial to determine the sentence. The American Constitution provides two specific actions – bribery and treason – that could lead to both impeachment and removal of a president from the position. It also allows a broader category of accusation, although said category is subject to interpretation. That said, a president can be found guilty and charged of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” This is not defined by the Constitution, however, which is the reason why impeachment on those grounds can be difficult to prove.
Due to its design, the removal of a president from the office is no easy task. To further understand President Trump’s current predicament, here are the steps in the process of impeachment:
To date, only two impeachment trials have been made in American history. The first one was for President Andrew Johnson and the second for President Bill Clinton. Both of these trials ended in acquittals, however, as the presidents were merely impeached by the House – they were not removed from the office by the Senate. One can only imagine how reaction papers and history assignments were written during those times - now we are witnessing yet another patch in history.
History of US presidential impeachments
While many other civil servants have been impeached and removed from office, two presidents that have been impeached, and both were acquitted by the Senate. President Andrew Johnson was the first to be impeached in 1868; the next being President Bill Clinton in 1999.
President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment
President Andrew Johnson’s term was characterized by his conflict with the Republican-led Congress. He often bypassed Congress, and used his veto power to derail the Republicans’ Reconstruction plans. There were two impeachment cases against him; however, only the second case passed Congress when the President violated the Tenure of Office Act.
The House voted 126 to 47 in favor of impeaching President Andrew Johnson. Following the process of the law, the case moved on to the Senate. In order for the case to succeed, the Senate needed to reach a two-thirds majority vote on at least one articles of impeachment. The Senate voted on three articles of impeachment, but still failed to reach majority. Thus, President Andrew Johnson was acquitted.
Impeachment of President Bill Clinton
President Clinton’s term was mired from the beginning with controversies. In 1994, Ken Starr was appointed by a panel of judges to investigate a land deal President Clinton and Hillary Clinton conducted prior to his election. That same year, Paula Jones sued the president for sexual misconduct. While these cases were ongoing, President Clinton also started a sexual relationship with then intern, Monica Lewinsky.
When Monica Lewinsky was subpoenaed for the sexual misconduct case, Clinton asked Lewinsky to deny their sexual relations. He himself denied it in public. The lies told by President Clinton in the sexual misconduct case against him set the groundwork for the impeachment case against him. Starr’s case included 11 grounds for impeaching President Clinton under perjury and obstruction of justice. The House of Representatives voted 258 to 176 in favor of President Clinton’s impeachment. The first charge, perjury, was rejected after 45 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted “not guilty.” While on the second charge, the vote was split evenly, thereby failing to meet the required majority vote and resulting in President Clinton’s acquittal.
What is next for the impeachment trial?
Now that Congress has voted to impeach Trump, the trial will move on to the Senate. The senate will hold a trial, most likely in January 2020. The senators will act as the jurors while the House lawmakers acting as prosecutors and the chief justice of the United States as presider. After the trial where both parties will present their arguments, a public vote will take place. A majority vote is required--two-thirds of those present. If the senate convicts President Trump on at least one article, he will be removed from office. However, the senators may also vote on whether to forbid him from running for office again.
Since the US Constitution does not specify the rules for the trial, so it must be decided by the Senate. House Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) suggested about 126 hours of proceedings, starting on January 6. However, this is still tentative as the two parties are yet to agree on the terms of the trial. Republicans and Democrats are currently at a standoff on whether to allow witnesses. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she will not be handing over the case to the Senate until she is sure that a fair trial process has been agreed upon.While Democrats continue to strengthen their case for the impeachment, political experts are not as hopeful. The Senate is dominated by Republicans--with 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and 2 Independents in the chamber. Even as they call for a fair trial, it will be a tall order to get a minimum of 20 Republicans to vote for the impeachment of President Trump. History is also on President’s side as both Presidents Johnson and Clinton have been acquitted by Senate and remained in office even after being impeached by the Congress. As with many issues surrounding the country, like the NRA and gun control, for now, Americans will have to be on the edge of their seats for the holidays.
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