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WAIT, WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
Peaches may not be in season anymore, but impeaching certainly is.
Since the onset of Donald Trump’s presidency, there’s been one scandal after another, along with ongoing murmurs of a possible impeachment.
Unless you live under a rock, you’re likely aware that an impeachment inquiry was officially launched on Tuesday, in response to POTUS’s attempt to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s potential 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
But before we get into what this could all mean for Trump (and for the American people), let’s get down to basics and answer the obvious question: what even is impeachment?
Put simply, impeachment is a charge of misconduct against the President of the United States.
Contrary to popular belief, impeachment is not the removal of a corrupt president from office, rather, it’s simply the adoption of charges by the House, potentially leading to a trial in the Senate.
The U.S. Constitution states that the president can be impeached and removed from office for three main offences (if he is proven guilty), including: bribery, treason, or other high crimes and misdemeanours.
THE NOT-SO-PEACHY PROCESS
The impeachment process must be initiated by the House of Representatives. Any member can introduce an impeachment resolution, but it needs a majority vote by the House Judiciary Committee to pass.
That’s exactly what happened on Tuesday, when speaker Nancy Pelosi finally made the long-awaited announcement that an impeachment inquiry of Trump would commence. (And apparently, a lot of important people agree with her decision.)
The House Judiciary Committee will now hold an investigation and recommend articles of impeachment (evidence) to the full House of Representatives.
The House will then vote on the articles of impeachment, and if at least one gets the majority vote, the president will be impeached (which is more or less the equivalent of being indicted).
But as we said earlier, just because the president is impeached doesn’t mean he will necessarily leave office.
The next step in the process is a Senate trial (the second chamber in Congress), which the Supreme Court’s chief justice will preside over. The senators basically act as a jury — they hear evidence from both sides and if 67% vote to convict the president in question, he is officially removed from office. The Senate’s vote is final.
This has never actually happened, though.
WAY BACK WHEN
Up until now, no U.S. president has been removed from office as a result of impeachment. But they’ve come close.
Only two U.S. presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives, including Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon resigned amid an impeachment inquiry regarding the Watergate scandal, escaping the investigation all together.
Andrew Johnson was charged with 11 articles of impeachment for breaching the Tenure of Office Act in 1868, but he was narrowly acquitted by one vote.
In 1998, Bill Clinton was faced with two articles of impeachment, for lying under oath about his sexual relationship with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Yet again, the vote wasn’t even close to a two-thirds majority, and Clinton was off the hook.
So as you can see, impeaching a president isn’t exactly a simple process, nor is it a guarantee.
Even though all of this impeachment drama stems mainly from the latest revelations that President Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, calls to impeach Trump have been swirling pretty much since he was sworn in as president.
But, it seems that in light of recent events, the House is finally making good on its threats to impeach.
It was a whistleblower (who is an active member of the U.S. intelligence community) that initially started the most recent scandal, coming forward with a complaint about a phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine.
The nine-page whistleblower complaint was finally unleashed to the public, and it claims that senior White House staff intervened and attempted to “lock down” any record of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president.
President Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, have repeatedly claimed that front-runner Joe Biden and his son engaged in sketchy dealings with Ukraine. No evidence of said corruption has ever emerged, but Trump was definitely snooping for some validation.
The transcript of Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reveals that he did, in fact, push Ukraine to investigate the Bidens for his own political gain, though he argues there was no quid pro quo.
One week prior to the call, though, Trump asked his acting chief of staff to withhold $391 million in military aid from Ukraine, which doesn’t exactly seem like a coincidence.
The phone call, coupled with the suppression of military aid makes it reasonable for the House (and the American public) to be highly suspicious.
The Democratic caucus has long been divided about whether or not to impeach Trump, but with all the new (and terrifying) information emerging about his shady dealings with Ukraine, more and more Democrats grew in favour of impeachment.
Those not in favour of impeachment fear that the plight would ultimately end in failure, as the Republican-controlled Senate will likely acquit Trump if it gets to that point.
While Trump haters see this as a victory, anything can happen, including a situation in which impeachment backfires, benefiting Trump by increasing his odds of re-election and mobilizing his base.
If Trump avoids conviction in the Republican-majority Senate, he will likely frame that as exoneration and rile up his fans like never before, bringing more Trump supporters to the polls.
For now, though, six committees — Judiciary, Intelligence, Ways and Means, Financial Services, Oversight and Foreign Affairs — will proceed with their investigations and ultimately present the evidence to the House of Representatives for a vote.