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President Donald Trump

Understanding the Impeachment Process

President Trump has always faced opposition, since even before the 2016 election. The people of America have shown their opinion on Trump, whether opposition or approval, and both sides are strong and passionate. With the start of the President’s term in January 2017, America has become extremely divided. While many media outlets are quick to talk about the change of Trump’s cabinet members, or his visits to his golf course, no headlines have been as important as the ones in the news now. The House of Representatives is moving forward in an impeachment process. However, those who are against Trump should not rejoice just yet. Similarly, those who are supporters may not have to be too worried at press time. 


The Impeachment process is a key part of our democracy. The National Center for Constitutional Studies explains that the “Impeachment proceedings give the Congress the right to remove any official from the executive and judicial branches of government.” However, for Trump to actually be removed from office, many steps need to be taken. To start off, an impeachment inquiry must be formally launched. The Constitution doesn’t say much about this, but historically the impeachment of a sitting president begins with an investigation, called an impeachment inquiry. If House Members find that the President has committed something that falls into one of the categories of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” they have the ability to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. In modern times, formal inquiries were launched against two Presidents, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton. 


Once the process started, the House Judiciary Committee gathers evidence, subpoenas witnesses, and reviews information about the President. Once the information has been collected, the House Judiciary Committee would vote on these charges and then advance them to a vote by the full House. The House then decides if it officially wants to charge the President on these counts, which needs a simple majority to pass.


Then, the impeachment charges are brought over to the Senate. To convict the President and remove him from office, two-thirds of Senators, or 67 of them, would have to vote to do it. Thus far, the House has impeached two sitting presidents (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton) but the Senate has not convicted either of them. 


Looking at Bill Clinton’s impeachment process can give some valuable insight into the way the impeachment process works. Clinton was separately charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, each requiring a separate Senate vote. At the time (1998), 45 Senators were Democrats, and 55 were Republicans. Even though Clinton was a Democrat, the Senate had a Republican majority. However, the vote on both charges came out to be that all 45 Democrats voted not guilty and 10 and five Republicans respectively also voted not guilty. For the most part, each Senator stayed within their party support. Looking at the current senate, the number of seats are very similar. 45 Democrats, 53 Republicans, and two Independents. 


For President Trump to be impeached and removed from office, it may require a lot of support. While the articles of impeachment are vague, the crime must be very serious. As the House Judiciary Committee works on their inquiry, the outcome of the impeachment process relies heavily on the House, the Senate, and the charges being made.