Washington was rocked on September 24 as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry of President Trump. When a president is impeached, it means Congress believes the president is no longer fit to serve and should be removed from office.
How does the impeachment process work?
Congress, more specifically the House of Representatives, can hold an impeachment vote if they feel as though the president has committed any “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Impeaching the president, though, does not automatically remove him or her from office. From there, the decision moves to the Senate to hold a trial presided by the chief justice. The Senate would have to come up with a majority vote in trial in order to get the president removed from office.
The impeachment process, though, is only in its early stages. Currently, an inquiry is taking place, meaning if lawmakers are in the process of investigating the evidence. If they decide they have enough evidence to make a case, they will begin writing articles of impeachment.
What is Trump being accused of?
In a July 2019 phone call, Trump had asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s involvement within Ukraine. Though he framed the request as a “favor,” he had noted within the phone for the president to keep in mind that the United States has been “very, very good to Ukraine.” Clouding this conversation was the fact that the US had recently suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, which Congress had approved to its defense against Russia.
It was then discovered that an internal whistleblower complaint was filed in August, involving “communications between Trump and a foreign leader.” A whistleblower is a person who informs on a person or organization engaging in an illicit activity.
What does the whistleblower complaint have to do with impeachment?
The existence of this internal complaint gave Pelosi and other top Democrats to move forward with an inquiry after months of resisting it.
How probable is impeachment?
Just because Democrats are moving forward in the impeachment process does not necessarily mean Trump will be removed from office. The impeachment process is long and grueling and can take as long as the House is willing to drag it along.
According to a recent Washington Post count, at least 227 House Democrats support an impeachment inquiry, which is potentially significant considering it takes 218 votes in the House to pass legislation. This does not mean all of these 227 Democrats will comply with a vote — it all comes down to what evidence the inquiry turns up. Currently, the Democrats control the House, but the Republicans control the Senate. This means that even if the Democrats pull together a majority vote for impeachment, the accusations could fall flat in a trial vote.
Even if Trump is impeached by the House, he still will have the ability to run in the upcoming 2020 election. It simply comes down to whether or not the impeachment will go to trial in the Senate. If the president is convicted in the Senate vote he will be the first president in history to be formally removed from office, as Johnson and Clinton were acquitted and Nixon resigned.