Politics can be somewhat like a boxing match. In the red corner, there is the sitting president, Donald Trump, being accused of wrongdoing and constantly slipping punches. In the blue corner, the opposing party is trying to impeach and remove him from office, with absolute certainty that our president is jeopardizing the integrity of the country. There is a constant cycle of accusation, making it hard to decipher what is fact from what is fiction. To understand what is happening and what has led us to the process of impeachment we have to take a step back.
What is it?:
Impeachment is the process by which a legislature brings charges against a civil officer of the government, according to Merriam-Webster. Although the dictionary definition does offer meaning to the word, impeachment is a broad topic with many intricacies. For one, impeachment can occur at the state or federal level. Impeachment is a key part of our democracy as it allows a dictator to be removed from office in a just way. This is such an important part of our government specifically, considering our previous relationship with Great Britain and the tyranny they held over us prior to the Revolutionary War. With a strong impeachment process in place, dictatorship can’t occur, and the wishes of the citizens can most fairly be represented.
How does it work?
The process of Presidential impeachment is started when the Speaker of the House announces a formal impeachment inquiry. Investigations are conducted to gather information for the case being built and closed-door meetings are held to further investigate. There are many different proceedings that take place such as issuing subpoenas, which is a court-ordered command requiring someone to do something like testify. Subpoenas hold a place in the impeachment process as they require specific people to speak, many of which can provide essential information to the case. As we progress, many committees conduct investigations to get to the bottom of the alleged crimes. The investigations usually begin in the House Judiciary Committee, but they can occur elsewhere depending on the circumstances. Through congressional investigation, senators and representatives can more clearly know which way to lean in their vote, ultimately determining the outcome of the impeachment process.
Next, impeachment hearings are held to publically call people to questioning. These hearings have become a spectacle on television and millions of people around the country tune in to gain insight. Despite the opinions of the citizens, the outcome of the impeachment process lies in the hands of the two chambers of Congress. According to the Constitution, “The House of Representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment” and “The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments”. In the same way the rest of our government functions using checks and balances, the impeachment decision made by the House must be confirmed by the Senate. If the House reaches a majority, the official is impeached, but he/she is not necessarily out of a job, yet. Once impeached, it is up to the Senate to vote on the conviction of the official, and the consequential removal from office through a ⅔ majority. One component of the process that many people overlook is the given official’s ability to run for office again. Since the impeachment of Judge Robert Archbald, the Senate has held a separate vote which concerns disqualification from future federal office. To accomplish this, the Senate must achieve a majority vote, an achievable feat compared to the supermajority required for removal from office.
Where do we stand?
Currently, President Trump is in question for obstructing Congress and abusing his power while in office. The process was officially started when a transcript was brought forward which depicted a conversation between President Zelensky of Ukraine and President Trump. In the seven-page transcript, Trump allegedly pressured Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, Trump’s political counterpart in the upcoming presidential election. The conversation included remarks about the military aid Ukraine receives from America and how important it is to their country. President Trump proceeds to lay out a plan where Ukraine will help Trump find potentially incriminating information, which would then have hypothetically been used as political leverage.
The events which have allegedly occurred carry massive repercussions. For one, President Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives on two articles, obstruction of congress and abuse of power. For a president to be charged with abuse of power, they must use their position in office for their own benefit, while disregarding the interests of the country. This was the article which all of the previously impeached presidents have been charged with. The second article of impeachment is obstruction of congress, claiming that Trump blocked congress’s investigation into his alleged crimes. This comes as a result of the lack of cooperation by Trump’s administration in the inquiry and the banning of several key speakers from testifying.
The final component of the process is confirmation of the impeachment by the Senate, a result that is highly unlikely. There are 53 Republicans and 45 Democrats and the only way the majority will vote for confirmation is if they think they could put forward a better candidate in the 2020 election than the incumbent President Trump. Due to the fact that the incumbent almost always has a better chance of winning an election than any other candidate, it is improbable that the Republicans will abandon their front runner. However, as recent global conflicts have escalated and as our relationship with Iran has approached the brink of war, some Republicans may feel like a change in leadership is the best course of action.
Where are we headed?
The Senate has yet to decide the rules of the trial which will decide the outcome of the impeachment confirmation. The rules include how evidence can be presented, the number of days the trial can last, and how many witnesses can be included. Deciding on the rules can be a dog fight since it is a key factor in the trial. Once the rules are agreed on, the trial is held and the Senate decides a verdict. In the trial, people throughout our government hold specific roles. The Supreme Court’s chief justice is the judge, the house members serve as the prosecution, lawyers representing the president will act as the defense, and the 100 Senate members act as the jury. At the end of it, the president is either convicted and removed from office or acquitted and remains in office. If removed, the Vice President will take over and the Republican party will most likely have to pick a new candidate for the upcoming election. With so much at stake, the pressure is on 100 people to decide the fate of our country. Who knew politics could be so action-packed!