President Trump is currently undergoing an impeachment inquiry, announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sept. 24th after a whistleblower came forward. Since then, there have been a multitude of discussions surrounding the impeachment inquiry, reasoning and process. Wading through all of the specifics of the inquiry can make understanding the process difficult. Simply, impeachment is an action taken by Congress, specifically the House of Representatives, to remove the president from office.
The Constitution outlines the process, giving the House the right to vote to impeach the president for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” However, what exactly counts as “high crimes and misdemeanors” is left to be decided upon by the House. There’s a distinction, though, between impeachment and actually removing the president from office, an action which requires a trial to be held by the Senate and presided over by the chief justice of the United States. Currently, six House committees, including Judiciary, Intelligence, Ways and Means, Financial Services, Oversight and Foreign Affairs are investigating Trump under an impeachment inquiry. After the inquiries, each committee will provide input into impeachment articles to be written up under the House Judiciary Committee, which votes on whether or not to refer the articles to the full House of Representatives. If the full House of Representatives votes and approves them, the articles then move to the House floor. If voting lawmakers approve them, the articles finally move to the Senate, where a public trial is held. The current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court would preside over the trial and it would take a two-thirds majority of the Senate to convict the president of high crimes and misdemeanors.
The impeachment inquiry is being carried out on the basis of accusations against Trump of a phone conversation he had with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The initial whistleblower wrote a letter accusing Trump of illegally seeking Ukraine’s help in digging up damaging information about one of Trump’s 2020 competitors and former vice president, Joe Biden.
Only two presidents have ever been impeached. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 for firing a cabinet secretary without Congress’ consent. Then, in 1998, Bill Clinton was impeached on perjury and obstruction of justice. Clinton’s impeachment inquiry was built on the Monica Lewinsky scandal in which Clinton was found guilty for perjury, lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice by lying under oath. Now, President Trump is facing his own scandal involving the Ukranian phone call. However, after all this time, it does make you wonder, why this? After the tumultuous reputation of Trump and his presidency, no one would have expected that, of all things, Ukraine would be at the center of an impeachment discussion.
From the very beginning, Trump has disregarded the presidential oath to set aside his personal desires, serve the public interest and to serve the entirety of the nation rather than fractions. On his first full day in office, Trump ordered his press secretary to lie about the size of the crowd at his inauguration. Since then, secrecy and chaos have surrounded Trump’s presidency with several accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct, repeatedly lying through speeches and social media, collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice, just to name a few.
Now, it seems that a twenty-minute-long phone call might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. However, some are still skeptical of whether or not the phone call was technically illegal, and even if it was, and the inquiry proceeds, the impeachment could ultimately fail. However, there’s still the chance that if the impeachment fails, Trump could be subject to being forced to resign, much like Richard Nixon. Nixon is the only president to have been forced from office due to scandal. Even before the House could vote on impeachment, caused by Watergate, Nixon resigned after being advised that any support from Congress had vanished. If scandal has that power, however, Trump should have resigned months ago.
Instead, our nation is in the middle of an impeachment inquiry where, most recently, the White House has announced refusal to cooperate with the inquiry by, “not answering any subpoenas, turning over any documents or cooperating in any way with the impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
This most recent update is just one look into the process and drama that is sure to unfold in the coming weeks. So, if anything, pay attention. The intricacies of bureaucracy are on full display right now and not every generation can say they’ve lived through an impeachment inquiry.