The impeachment process explained

Trump Legacy Race
Posted at 7:38 PM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 18:01:10-05

For the second time in 13 months, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump, marking the first time in U.S. history that a president has ever been impeached twice.

On Wednesday, 232 House representatives voted in favor of impeaching President Trump, 10 of those being Republicans from states outside of Florida, while 197 voted in opposition.

Now the question is, what happens next?

Several House leaders are urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to forward the Article of Impeachment over to the Senate quickly, so that a trial can begin. But the Senate doesn't resume until January 19th, which is one day before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

“Trump will be out of office before the trial occurs,” said Dr. Susan MacManus, ABC Action News Political Analyst.

President-elect Biden will have Cabinet positions to fill as he takes office, so whether a trial in the senate would begin immediately is still up in the air.

“There are arguments that it’s better to delay, because it would give the president time to get his Cabinet confirmed and take hold of some big issues like the pandemic and the economy, and then hold it a little bit later. Others say 'no, we’ve got a jump right in and do it right now,'“ said Dr. MacManus.

The vote in the House of Representatives was done at an unprecedented pace.

“But then again there’s never been an accusation of impeachment about insurrection, inciting insurrection, the severity of that,“ said Dr. MacManus.

But one thing is certain, a trial in the Senate will be nowhere near as fast as the vote in the House.

“Each side will present the arguments, and the President does have a right to a defense,“ said Dr. MacManus.

The party divide is greater than ever, and Dr. MacManus says the timing of the trial could have a big impact on that.

“Every day it goes on, the opportunities and chances of deepening party divide increase which makes his job of unifying the country much more difficult,“ said Dr. MacManus.

Impeachment 101

"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

The U.S. Constitution spells out a detailed process for Congress to follow in order to impeach a president or members of the administration.

Impeaching a president, or any federal officer, is a relatively low bar. Only a simple majority of representatives are required to impeach a president. With Democrats holding a majority, and a handful of Republicans, most notably Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, voting in favor of impeachment, Trump is expected to become the first president to be impeached twice by the House.

But just because a president is impeached does not mean the president is removed from office, as Bill Clinton was impeached by the House, but not convicted.

Two thirds of the US Senate would be required to remove the president. It is also likely that a conviction would not even happen until after Trump leaves office on Jan. 20. While Democrats have said they want Majority Leader McConnell to reconvene the Senate to take a vote, the Senate is on recess until next week.

The Senate is still expected to take a vote on whether to convict Trump. As part of a conviction, the Senate could also vote to permanently bar Trump from holding federal office, precluding him from running for president in 2024.

Charges against Trump

House Democrats allege that Trump incited the riot that took place at the US Capitol last week, which resulted in the death of five people, including a US Capitol police officer. Trump rallied supporters moments before a mob of Trump supporters overwhelmed law enforcement at the Capitol, halting the count of the Electoral College.

“President Trump, addressed a crowd at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. There, he reiterated false claims that ‘we won this election, and we won it by a landslide,’” the articles of impeachment drafted by House Democrats said. “He also willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore.’

"Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session's solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive and seditious acts.”

How impeachment differs from the 25th amendment

There are essentially two ways to remove a sitting president. Other than impeachment, there is also a section in the 25th Amendment that spells out a process for the vice president and majority of cabinet members to remove the president from office. The provision is intended to remove a president who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties” of the office.

Democrats have suggested that Trump is not able to make sound decisions, and is unable to carry out the duties of the presidency. So far, Vice President Mike Pence has refused to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Republicans joining Democrats

As of the publication of this article, three House Republicans have said they’ll vote to impeach Trump.

Among them is Cheney, who is the third-ranking member of the GOP caucus, and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

"The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President,” Cheney wrote.

"There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States, of his office and his oath to the Constitution," Cheney added.

Past impeachment inquiries

Although no president has ever been removed from office through conviction, a few have come close. In 1868, Andrew Johnson was one vote shy of being convicted in the Senate.

Richard Nixon opted to resign over the Watergate scandal instead of face impeachment in the House.

Bill Clinton, like Johnson, was impeached by the House, but not convicted by the Senate for lying under oath for having sex with a White House intern.