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Trump impeachment: Here's how the process works?

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    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    14th Jan, 2021

The House of Representatives voted 232-197 to impeach President Donald Trump for an unprecedented second time for his role in Jan. 6 riot and siege of the U.S. Capitol.

What is the presidential impeachment process?

  • An impeachment proceeding is the formal process by which a sitting president of the United States is accused of wrongdoing.
  • It is a political process and not a criminal process.
  • The articles of impeachment are the list of charges drafted against the president. The vice president and all civil officers of the U.S. can also face impeachment.
  • The process begins in the House of Representatives, where any member may make a suggestion to launch an impeachment proceeding.
  • It is then up to the speaker of the House, as leader of the majority party, to determine whether or not to proceed with an inquiry into the alleged wrongdoing.
  • The vote requires a simple majority vote, which is 50% plus one (218), after which the president is impeached.

The two Houses

Impeachment requires both chambers of Congress to act:

  1. The House of Representatives: The House has the “sole power of impeachment” for federal officials, and all that is required is a simple majority to initiate proceedings.  The House essentially takes on the role of a prosecutor, deciding if the charges warrant impeachment and a trial.
  2. The Senate: The Senate is where the actual trial takes place. Under the Constitution, the chamber acts like a court, with senators considering evidence given by witnesses or any other form deemed suitable.
  • The House has 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans, and one independent. The Democrats could, therefore, impeach Trump with no Republican support.
  • The Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who usually vote with the Democrats. Conviction of the President would require 67 votes, which cannot happen unless some Republicans vote against him.

The present case

  • Over 210 House Democrats introduced the most recent article of impeachment on Jan. 11, 2021, contending Trump "demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law."
  • The impeachment article also cited Trump's controversial call with the Georgia Republican secretary of state where he urged him to "find" enough votes for Trump to win the state and his efforts to "subvert and obstruct" certification of the vote.
  • It also cited the Constitution's 14th Amendment, noting that it "prohibits any person who has 'engaged in insurrection or rebellion against' the United States" from holding office.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats accelerated the procedure and voted just a week before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
  • Trump now faces a trial on the article in the Senate.