By Chaylee N. Brock
At this point, it’s probably fair to say that most Americans have heard about the impeachment of President Donald Trump, but the process of impeachment can be confusing and difficult to understand.
Where are we now? What’s coming next? Will Trump be removed from office?
Even though impeachment is a political process, it’s easier to understand when compared to a legal proceeding, since most Americans understand how the legal and court systems function, thanks to popular shows like Law and Order, or from serving themselves on a jury.
In an impeachment, the House of Representatives serves as prosecutors, who, in a legal capacity, are responsible for bringing indictments against the accused party (in this case, the President).
You might have caught pieces of the hearings being held in the House before Christmas. Those hearings were held to gather witness testimony and evidence in the case against President Trump, in order to create and vote on Articles of Impeachment (aka: indictments).
Once the House believed they had enough evidence to prove the President committed high crimes and misdemeanors (the threshold for impeachment, as described by the Founders in the Constitution), they wrote up two Articles of Impeachment, accusing President Trump of both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
According to The Constitution, the next step of the impeachment process is to involve the United States Senate and to hold a trial, to determine whether or not the accusations made by the House are accurate and justify conviction and removal from office.
This is where the impeachment of President Bill Clinton came to a stop. Although Clinton had been impeached by the House of Representatives, the Senate decided that the charges were not serious enough to convict and remove him from office.
Nevertheless, the fact that the House found Clinton’s behavior worthy of Articles of Impeachment means that Clinton is still considered an impeached President, even though he was allowed to continue to serve through the end of his term.
This is where the current impeachment process has come to a halt: we are currently waiting for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D – California) to transfer the House-approved Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. She has been holding onto the Articles for weeks now, asking for a commitment from the U.S. Senate to hold a fair trial before she will send them the Articles.
It is the Speaker’s responsibility to choose members of the House to go to the Senate during the trial, to continue to serve in their role as prosecutors and to try the case. These House members have not yet been named, as the Speaker says she is also waiting for the Senate to provide an explanation of the trial rules before selecting her members to go to the Senate.
Once the Articles are transferred to the Senate, all 100 Senators are meant to serve as jurors, led by the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnel (R – Kentucky). The Senate proceedings will be overseen by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who, in this case, is Chief Justice John Roberts.
There is currently a partisan battle over how the trial should proceed and whether or not new witnesses and new evidence can and/or will be admitted during the Senate proceedings. Republicans claim that they will not be willing to accept new evidence in the case, while Democrats argue that it is perfectly acceptable, even necessary, to hear new witness testimony and collect new documentary evidence.
Once we get past the partisan bickering and the evidence and charges are debated in the Senate, it is up to the Senators to take a vote as to whether or not they find President Trump guilty.
Two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes, is required to formally convict the President and remove him from office.
As of right now, it does not seem that there are enough Senators willing to vote to convict and remove President Trump from office, given the fact that the Senate has a Republican majority, and most of those Republicans have taken it upon themselves to defend President Trump and his actions. However, if 67 Senators were to vote to convict the President, the Vice President, Mike Pence, would be promoted and become the new occupant in the White House.
Speaker Pelosi publicly stated on Friday that she will transfer the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate within the next week, upon which the Senate trial will begin immediately.
Despite how the trial goes and how the Senate chooses to vote, like President Clinton, President Trump is already and will always be considered an impeached president, because of the indictment handed down by the House of Representatives. President Donald Trump has become only the third president in U.S. history to me impeached, and that will be a lasting stain on his legacy, even if he is allowed to continue serving out his term.
The Senate trial of Donald J. Trump is sure to be a historic event, and we will keep you updated on further developments.
(To read the impeachment clause of the Constitution, as the Founders wrote it, here is a link that will take you directly to that information: https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articleii)