On September 24th, 2019, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry. Here’s what you need to know:
What is impeachment?
Impeachment means that Congress declares the President of the United States unfit to serve, and should be immediately removed from office. Written into Article II of the Constitution, the legislative branch has the power to remove the president with justified cause. Most often, “high crimes and misdemeanors” is a phrase commonly used to determine whether or not an action is impeachable. It is generally understood to mean a violation of oath of office, not necessarily a crime in the traditional sense of breaking the law.
Who impeaches the president?
Congress. More specifically, the House of Representatives. Under the Constitution, the House can vote to impeach a president for any “high crimes and misdemeanors;” leaving it up to the Representatives to decide what specifically that means. But impeaching the president is not the same thing as removing him from office. For this, the Senate holds a trial presided over by the chief justice of the United States.
Which presidents have been impeached?
In American history, only two presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. None have actually been removed from office via a Senate trial. In theory, after a successful impeachment the Vice President would take the highest office.
What is the process for such an impeachment inquiry?
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, is leading the investigation and working with a few other committees. If the investigations conclude that there is a cause for impeachment, the House Judiciary Committee will draw up articles of impeachment, and the Judiciary Committee – and later the full House – will vote on them. That could occur by late November, some lawmakers are saying. After which, the Senate will hold a trial.
Is impeachment happening?
Not necessarily. Right now, there is only an impeachment inquiry happening. If lawmakers decide at the conclusion of the investigations that there is enough evidence to consider writing an article of impeachment, then they will. At which point, impeachment will be underway. Currently, a majority of House Democrats support an impeachment inquiry; but we don’t know how many would vote to actually impeach Trump. So far, only 31 have publicly reported that they would vote to impeach him. Even then, it is highly questionable that the inquiry would pass the Senate.
By Maggie Di Sanza