The ins and outs of impeachment


Zach Gilbert

Donald Trump is the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. What’s next? Photo courtesy of Politico.

On Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, President Donald Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

“Today, in a bipartisan way, the House demonstrated that no one is above the law, not even the President of the United States” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before signing the article of impeachment against President Trump. “Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our country and, once again, we honor our oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help us God.”

As the tumultuous trial came to a close on Wednesday afternoon, many Americans were left wondering what would come next, especially with President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration less than a week away. Some are still even a bit perplexed by the whole impeachment process as a whole. Rest assured, we have you covered.

What does the Constitution say about impeachment?

According to Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution, “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.”

Who is in charge of impeachment?

The responsibility of impeachment falls on the U.S. House of Representatives. If a simple majority of the House (218 of the 435 members) votes to impeach a president, the trial will have been successful.

What is Trump being impeached for?

This time around, President Trump was charged with “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” for allegedly inciting a riot that led to the storming of the United States Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6.

After a president is impeached, are they removed from office?

Not quite. Following impeachment, the Senate must hold a trial to actually convict the president in question. At the end of the trial, the Senate will vote to decide if the president is guilty or innocent, but it takes a supermajority (2/3 of its members, or over 67 senators) to convict and remove the president from office. From there, the vice president would take power, and the former president would additionally be disqualified from holding any public office in the future.

However, even if a president is not convicted by the Senate, they could still potentially be disqualified from holding future office, as, in the past, this verdict has been decided separately with a simple majority (meaning only 51 senators would have to vote “yes” on this proposition). If Trump’s trial occurs after Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the two new Democratic Senators from Georgia, are sworn in, it could be a quick and decisive vote.

When would the Senate’s trial take place?

The set date is still to be determined. Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has stated that the GOP will not reconvene the Senate before Jan. 19, choosing to focus on President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, unless there is unanimous consent from senators.

“The Senate trial would therefore begin after President Trump’s term has expired – either one hour after its expiration on Jan. 20 or twenty-five hours after its expiration on Jan. 21,” a memo circulated by McConnell to colleagues stated.

This means that Trump will be the first president in U.S. history to be put on trial after leaving office – an unprecedented effort that has already faced legal scrutiny.

Some Democrats also worry that Trump’s trial may take away from time that the Senate needs to either confirm Biden’s cabinet nominees or vote on other legislation. To circumvent this concern, Biden has suggested that the Senate “go half-day on dealing with the impeachment, and half a day getting [his] people nominated and confirmed.”

Would any Republican senators vote to convict Trump?

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, The New York Times reported that McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable acts. Yet, on Wednesday, McConnell clarified his position in a message to colleagues.

“I have not made a final decision on how I will vote, and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” McConnell wrote.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., has stated that he would “consider” impeachment articles, while Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Ala., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., have asked Trump to resign but stopped short of voicing support for impeachment and conviction.

In contrast, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a Trump ally who tried to distance himself from the president following last week’s attack on the Capitol, has been openly against the impending trial.

“To my Republican colleagues who legitimize this process, you are doing great damage not only to the country, the future of the presidency, but also to the party,” Graham said.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, the only Republican who voted for Trump’s conviction in his first impeachment trial this past January, has yet to say how he’d vote, but he has publicly condemned Trump’s actions.

“When the president incites an attack against Congress, there must be a meaningful consequence,” Romney said in a written statement released last week.