Do you long for the impeachment of President Trump? Do you know exactly what impeachment is? All most of us know is that it’s a way to get rid of a president we don’t like. In this post I’m going to break down for you exactly what happens when our commander in chief gets impeached.
Impeachment is a trial put on by the U.S. Senate. It’s presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Vice President would be in this position for any other trial. But it’s easy to see why this can’t be the case for prosecuting a president. No way Mike Pence or any other VP would be trustworthy in this role.
To get removed from office a president has to commit “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Exactly what this means is up for debate. In general a president must have violated a law. Politics is part of it too. Congress must have the political will to stand up to the president, regardless of party.
In U.S. history only two presidents have faced impeachment. Presidents Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 and 1999. Johnson and Clinton stayed in office after their acquittals. In 1974 president Richard Nixon resigned before the process could even begin.
How Impeachment Begins
Articles of impeachment originate in the House of Representatives. Each article is a formal accusation of wrongdoing. Next the lawmakers vote on these charges. Impeachment occurs when one or more charges gets a majority vote.
Next comes the Senate trial. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is the presiding judge. The prosecution consists of a team of House members called managers. Like in a normal trial, the president has a defense team. While the Senate acts as the jury.
If two-thirds of the Senate vote for impeachment, the president is no longer president. He or she gets thrown out of office and the VP becomes president. That’s a high standard, but not impossible to achieve. In 1868 president Andrew Johnson came within one vote of suffering that fate. If Trump gets impeached Mike Pence would become president, God help us all.
Rules of Impeachment
When it comes to impeachment there are no established rules. The Senate is is free to make them up as they go along. This could get ugly, yet never has.
Senators vote on various issues that have to do with the trial. They decide whether to hear witnesses. If videotaped testimony is acceptable. How long each witness can speak. Whether the impeachment trial is broadcast live or at all.
For Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment, both sides showed videotaped depositions. The prosecution and defense had four days to present their side.
Impeachment is a unique kind of trial. It’s only one where the jury sets the rules.
Impeachment isn’t the only way to remove a sitting president. There is also the 25th Amendment. This law deals with removing a disabled POTUS.
For this to happen the VP and a majority of the president’s cabinet have to agree that POTUS is unfit. The exact wording goes like this: “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”. The vice president would then become acting president.
The president of course has a right to contest this finding. But if say, president Trump loses two – thirds of both houses of Congress he’s done for. Right now that’s an unlikely scenario, no matter how bat shit the Donald gets. Party loyalty trumps love of country almost every time.
Could Trump Be Impeached?
The short answer is yes. Impeachment is a real possibility for president Trump. Is it likely to happen? Not soon. It’s hard to picture Trump removed by a Republican controlled Congress.
For things to change Republican leaders would need to see Trump as dead weight. There are two possibilities for this. His popularity dips below George W. Bush levels, putting control of Congress in play. Or he refuses to cooperate with the GOP agenda. Now it’s tempting to think enough Republicans could turn on Trump out of love for America. I wouldn’t count on it.
High Crimes and Misdemeanors
On at least three separate occasions Trump made a run at James Comey‘s integrity. There were phone calls and one or more face to face meetings.
First, he asked for the lawman’s loyalty. Then Trump demanded to know if he was under investigation. To his credit, Comey refused to answer. By the way, an FBI director can’t pledge loyalty to any president. Trump either didn’t know that or didn’t care. When Comey refused to drop the investigation into Mike Flynn’s ties with Russia, he was fired. More than loyalty, Trump was seeking a quid pro quo. Comey could keep his job only if he did what the president asked. This is classic of abuse of power.
This act of obstruction would be grounds for impeachment for any other president. Imagine if Barack Obama had asked the head of the FBI to stop an investigation. Even worse, an investigation into a close friend. One that he considered to be a “good guy.”
If it were Obama, Republicans would be chanting “lock him up” into the wee hours of the morning. The news media would give the story obsessive, around the clock coverage. Why isn’t this happening? It’s because the lazy media has reset the bar for presidential behavior. It has dropped so low that even theses antics don’t shock us.
Earlier I said political will is a key component for impeachment. The people who could take Trump down won’t develop the stomach for it until public disgust is undeniable. This is unlikely. Trump’s base is loyal as a dog. His party is blind to anything except power.
The impeachment of Donald Trump, no matter how well deserved, is most likely never going to happen.