Trump has been impeached. What does it mean?

Trump has been impeached. What does it mean?

On Wednesday, Jan. 13, citing the president’s involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump for a historic second time. Although many Americans are familiar with this term, one that is especially relevant in the last four years, fewer know how the impeachment process actually works.

What does it mean to impeach a president?

As per Section 4 of Article Two of the U.S. Constitution, lawmakers are allowed to remove the president of the United States for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.

The Constitution does not restrict the number of times a federal official may be impeached, though Trump is the first one to be impeached more than once. The process began in the House of Representatives.

House Democrats filed a single article of impeachment on Monday, Jan. 11 titled

“incitement of insurrection.” The article listed Trump’s interference with the nation’s peaceful transfer of power as well as damage done to the security and integrity of the United States. The 14th Amendment, which prohibits “any person who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against The United States” was also mentioned in the article. Seeing that Vice President Pence had no intention of invoking the 25th Amendment, which outlines a process to remove a president from power, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had urged Democrats to proceed with the impeachment process.

It is important to note, at this point, that impeachment is equivalent to an indictment in a

criminal case; however, it is equally important to note that impeachment is a political process, not a legal process. Lawmakers in the House have the right to charge the president through the introduction of impeachment articles, and it is up to the senators whether to actually remove the president or not. Historically, in the cases of President Richard Nixon and President Bill Clinton, the House Judiciary Committee held investigations and recommended articles of impeachment to the full House. The same was true of Trump’s first impeachment. However, in the case of Trump’s second impeachment, House Democrats simply drafted an article of impeachment without any special proceedings. 

If at least one of the articles of impeachment wins a simple majority vote in the House, the president is impeached, as Trump was on Jan. 13. After impeachment, the articles are transferred to the Senate, where a trial is held. Continuing on the analogy of a criminal case, a selected group of representatives from the House acts as prosecutors, or “managers”. The president would also have representation and the Senate would serve as the “jury” – although there are political, not legal, consequences to their vote. In this round of voting, at least two-thirds of senators must vote guilty in order to remove the president; the vice president would then assume the office of president.

What does the future hold for President Trump?

After Trump was impeached in the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a surprise to many Democrats, expressed that he might not be against voting for the removal

of the president before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20. However, he did say that a speedy trial is unlikely and that it would begin no earlier than Jan. 19, a day before the inauguration, as he has expressed an unwillingness to ask the Senate to reconvene earlier than previously scheduled. It would take the unanimous consent of all 100 senators for the Senate to reconvene before the scheduled date, which seems unlikely. Although the removal is almost completely symbolic since Trump cannot be removed from an office he no longer holds, it does have some clear ramifications for Trump’s future. Should he be convicted, a simple majority of the Senate would be able to prohibit him from ever taking federal office again, ruining his alleged hopes at making a comeback for the top seat in 2024.

With regards to the Senate trial, it is likely that it will not start until after the inauguration. Although there is no precedent to holding a Senate trial for an ex-president after the inauguration of a new one, probably due to the rarity of impeached presidents, the Senate has total freedom to do so. As for the Republican lawmakers, they face a conundrum while debating whether or not to convict Trump in the future. They have to strike a balance between keeping the support of passionate Trump supporters while keeping in mind the core values of the country and maintaining its long-term political stability.

For live updates, stay tuned to The Hill News’ website and Twitter feed, and check out The New York Times’ coverage.