Amid potentially confusing and misleading information regarding the impeachment inquiries against President Trump that have been launched by House Democrats, Americans are still attempting to piece together exactly what these inquiries entail, using past models of impeachment efforts from the Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson administrations. Although many details regarding the Democratic impeachment push are still being straightened out, here is what is known:
Despite Democrats calling for President Trump’s impeachment on the grounds of his collusion with Russia during most of his presidency, the impeachment inquiries have begun due to a phone call Trump had with the President of Ukraine.
President Trump called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Jul. 25, 2019 urging him to fight corruption, suggesting he should investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter who had business interests in Ukraine while his father was vice president and working closely with their government.
On Aug. 12, 2019, a whistleblower, whose identity has not yet been released, reported an “urgent concern” due to the belief that Trump was “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country” to benefit him in the 2020 election. The report was filed to the Inspector General for National Intelligence, Michael Atkinson; and it is believed that the phone call and whistleblower complaint are related according to claims made by The New York Timesand The Washington Post.
After going under preliminary review, Atkinson found the whistleblower complaint to be credible, and thus reported it to the acting director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire on Aug. 26, 2019.
Atkinson reported a redacted version of the complaint to House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff. Atkinson explained that Maguire had disagreed that the complaint arises “urgent concern,” which would have originally been required to be reported to congressional intelligence committees within seven days.
On the same day, Sep. 9, 2019, three House chairmen—Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, and Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, and Schiff—announce a wide range investigation into the dealings with Ukraine by Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
On Sep. 17, 2019, Atkinson told Schiff that Maguire and the Justice Department had told him to not report the substance of the whistleblower complaint to Congress, which explains why the redacted version which was originally shown to Schiff. Two days later, the House Intelligence Committee met behind closed doors with Atkinson, who did not disclose any further information.
On Sep. 24, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives will begin a formal impeachment inquiry of President Trump.
“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the President’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said.
In the next couple of days following the announcement, the Department of Justice released a five-page summary of the phone conversation between Trump and Zelensky as well as the whistleblower’s complaint to the public.
What is an Impeachment Inquiry?
Congress has constitutional authority to impeach a president, representative, cabinet member or Supreme Court Justice for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” according to the Constitution. The House of Representatives goes through the impeachment process, described in the third question, then the Senate holds a trial on those charges to decide whether the President (or other office holder) should be removed and barred from and future positions of holding federal office.
What does it take to actually impeach a president?
A president can be impeached for abusing the powers of the office or for acting in a manner that can be considered incompatible with the office. Impeachment and conviction by congress is only a political punishment, due to the fact that sitting presidents cannot be tried in the federal justice system or convicted of crimes, which is why America has the process of impeachment in the first place.
What are the steps of the Impeachment process? How long does it take?
After a president has been impeached by the House, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court oversees the Senate trial. The office holder is entitled to present a defense and each side can call witnesses and present evidence. After the case has been presented, the Senate meets in a closed session to discuss. The Senate vote is then conducted in an open session, requiring a two-thirds majority for conviction. If the Senate votes to convict, the public official on trial is immediately removed from office.
In addition, the Senate can conduct a separate vote on whether to disqualify the official from ever again holding federal office with a simple majority. There is no solid answer to how long this process takes. For example President Johnson’s impeachment only took about three months. It has been reported that the congressional meetings are currently investigating Trump, and an unknown source told NBC News that Pelosi insisted to lawmakers that they need to move quickly.
Information for this article was gathered from nbcnews.com, usatoday.com and nytimes.com