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Impeachment Proceedings ~ Just the Facts

October 7, 2019

During assembly on Monday, October 7, Gabe Fleisher '20, editor of the daily e-newsletter, Wake Up to Politics, explained the impeachment process in the context of current events. The Current Events Club asked Gabe to prepare this presentation to share facts about the process in hopes of providing information from which others can form their own opinions. Here are Gabe's prepared remarks:

Late last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that her caucus would be opening a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

What does that mean exactly? The Constitution tells us that the House “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and that the president can be impeached for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” a definition that leaves a lot of room for individual representatives to interpret as they see fit. The way the process has worked in the modern era is that House committees investigate the president for potential wrongdoing -- which is the step we are in now -- and then send that information to the House Judiciary Committee, which has the first opportunity to vote on articles of impeachment. If they are approved by the committee, the full House votes on the articles. If 218 members, a simple majority, vote “aye,” the president is impeached.

But the process doesn’t end there. The articles then go to the Senate, where a trial is held and the president in history is only removed from office if two-thirds of senators vote to convict. Trump is only the fourth president to face impeachment proceedings. Two have actually been impeached -- Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton -- but both were acquitted by the Senate. A third, Richard Nixon, resigned from office before the proceedings could continue.

Trump, of course, has provoked controversy since almost the moment he took office, but the impeachment investigation currently underway is actually focused on pretty narrow allegations. The relevant scandal began with an anonymous whistleblower complaint from inside the intelligence community, which asserted that Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, his potential 2020 opponent, over unproven claims that Biden called for the firing of a Ukrainain prosecutor to take heat off of his son Hunter, while Trump was also holding up military aid to Ukraine. The whistleblower also alleged that the White House acted to cover up the transcript of the call, which has since been released to the public for all to see.

The legal questions at hand center around the prohibition against political candidates accepting “things of value” from foreign nationals. While President Trump has admitted to much of the allegations, he has maintained that his call to the Ukrainain president was “perfect” and was not a violation of the law, saying that the allegations against Biden are much more serious.

Meanwhile, the impeachment proceedings continue to accelerate at an incredibly fast pace: although similar investigations have taken years to be completed in the past, Democrats say they hope to vote on articles of impeachment as soon as next month.

Thank you for listening.