Washington — President Donald Trump has been formally impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the third American chief executive, after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, to be charged under the U.S. Constitution’s ultimate remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors. Trump was charged with abusing his power and obstructing Congress during an impeachment inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine.
Here’s a quick guide to what happened and what’s next in the impeachment process:
What is impeachment?
It’s the constitutionally prescribed method for the legislative branch to remove a president, vice president and “all civil officers” — which has been construed to include judges and members of a president’s cabinet.
The U.S. House has initiated impeachment proceedings more than 60 times and voted to impeach 15 federal judges, one senator, one cabinet secretary and two presidents: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in 1974 when it became clear he would be impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate.
What are grounds for impeachment?
The U.S. Constitution’s standards for impeachment aren’t specific. Congress has defined grounds for impeachment as bribery, reason and “high crimes and misdemeanors.” An impeachable offense does not need to be a crime. Congress has defined that to include abusing the powers of the presidency or misusing the office for improper purpose or gain.
How does impeachment work?
After an impeachment inquiry is completed, the House Judiciary Committee — or another specially selected committee — prepares articles of impeachment and reports them to the U.S. House. When the full House votes on articles of impeachment, if at least one gets a majority vote, the president is impeached — essentially the equivalent of being indicted.
The Senate, now under Republican control, would act as a court to weigh the charges sent over by the House. A team of lawmakers from the House, known as managers, adopt the role of prosecutors. The president has defense lawyers, and the Senate serves as the jury.
If at least two-thirds of the senators find the president guilty, he is removed, and the vice president takes over as president.
Senate rules mandate that when the Senate is notified that the House has named impeachment managers, the Senate secretary “shall immediately inform” the House that the Senate is ready to receive them and begin a trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he wants a quick trial, without witnesses.
What happened yesterday?
In September, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed six House committees to investigate Trump — Judiciary, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Oversight, Ways and Means, and Financial Services — under the “umbrella” of a formal impeachment process. However, the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee led the inquiry.
The Judiciary Committee issued two impeachment articles, based in large part on the findings of the Intelligence Committee.
In largely party line votes, the full House determined that Trump abused the power of his office by enlisting a foreign government – Ukraine — to investigate a political rival ahead of the 2020 election. The House also approved a second charge, that he obstructed Congress in its investigation.
Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, is a senior member of the Intelligence Committee, and could be named by Pelosi as one of the House managers in the Senate trial.
But Pelosi announced after the impeachment vote that she is not going to immediately appoint managers or send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. She said she wants to first evaluate the terms laid out for the pending Senate trial.
Under the rules the House adopted Wednesday for consideration of the impeachment articles, a resolution naming the impeachment managers — and authorizing the transmittal of the articles to the Senate — can be called up at any time by Judiciary Committee. There is no time limit on that authority.
Will Trump be removed from office?
Likely not. A two-thirds majority of senators is required to remove the president from office. Because Republicans have the majority vote and have expressed their intention to acquit Trump, he will likely remain in office despite the impeachment.
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