By Blog Writer Christine Nbemeneh
Nowadays, the scandals associated with President Donald Trump’s administration seem commonplace; therefore, one can’t help but wonder if impeachment is inevitable, since the administration’s deception and reports of Russian collusion are growing in severity. As I scroll through social media and news stories, I often notice the misuse of the term “impeach” when calling for Trump to be removed from office; it is important to understand that these processes are not tantamount.
Throughout U.S. history there have been two presidents who were impeached: Andrew Johnson (often confused with Andrew Jackson) and Bill Clinton. Regardless of being charged, both remained president because the Senate failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed for conviction; therefore, both men were eventually acquitted. Richard Nixon was on his way to becoming impeached, but resigned before Congress could finalize the process.
Impeachment occurs when charges of misconduct are filed against a civil officer or government official. First, the House of Representatives must come to the agreement that an act of misconduct has occurred. Then, they must vote on the charges and pass the articles of impeachment. Once passed, the president has officially been impeached. However, this does not mean he or she will automatically be removed from office. After these charges have been passed in the House, the president will be tried before the Senate and Chief Justice of the United States (John Roberts) to determine whether the charges are sufficient for a conviction, which would then lead to the president’s immediate removal from office.
Last year, The Washington Post reported that Trump leaked extremely classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Kislyak about the Islamic State. This information was considered “so sensitive that details had been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government”. At the time this act incited so much public rage that many Democrats on Capitol Hill called for Trump’s removal from office as his acts could be regarded as an act of treason.
“Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”
Put simply, a conviction by the Senate would not be sufficient to send a president or violating official to jail. The powers of the Senate in the impeachment trial are limited to removing an official from office and barring an official from future office if convicted. A convicted official would still have to undergo prosecution in a criminal court of law.
Knowing what we know now, here are the real questions one should consider:
1) If the House impeached Donald Trump, would the GOP-majority Senate follow through with a conviction?
2) Would Vice President Mike Pence be a better president? He has been smiling quite a lot lately. Could it be due to the growing possibility of a Trump impeachment? Pence has continued to defend and risk his reputation for President Trump, as is often required of a Vice President. Yet, oftentimes, Pence’s efforts are undermined whenever Trump publicly contradicts him. One may recall this to be the case when Trump countered his VP, and other surrogates, when responding to widespread criticism about his reasons for firing then-FBI Director Comey in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.
3) Is there a way to stop the unending controversy of this administration? To this, there is an answer and it cannot be stated enough: VOTE!
Midterms elections are right around the corner and they’re scheduled for November 6, 2018. Trump won’t be up for re-election at this time, but representatives and senators at both the federal and state level will be. It remains to be seen what this could mean for the Trump administration.
Sources and Further Reading
- “1974: Nixon Charged with First of Three Articles of Impeachment”, HISTORY (27 July 2017).
- Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, “Trump Revealed Highly Classified Information to Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador”, The Washington Post (15 May 2017).
- Michael Gerhardt, “Punishment for Impeachment”, The Heritage Guide to the Constitution
Image: Gage Skidmore @flickr