This week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives would being a formal impeachment inquiry of President Trump. Congressional Democrats have been investigating the President since he took office. Yet, the heightened level of impeachment effort was sparked by a recent whistleblower who claimed President Trump had urged the Ukrainian president to investigate a business that former Vice President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was on the board of.
While this national conversation plays out and both sides accuse the other of corruption, Americans should become informed about what impeachment is and how the process works.
Impeachment is the process by which a president or other official of the United States can be removed from office if he betrays the public’s trust or commits a crime. The process of impeachment is laid out in Article Two, Section Four of the Constitution. There are two main steps to impeach a president. First, the House of Representatives opens an impeachment inquiry, investigates the alleged misconduct and votes for or against impeachment. For the charges to move to the Senate, and majority of the House members must vote for impeachment. After the president has been impeached by the House, the Senate debates whether to remove the President from office, and two-thirds of the members of the Senate must vote to do so.
Now, though Speaker Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry of President Trump, it’s unclear whether she has the power to do so unilaterally. According to The New York Times, during the impeachment of Nixon and Clinton, “the full House voted for resolutions directing the House Judiciary Committee to open the inquiries.” In other words, it’s undetermined whether the Speaker of the House can open a formal impeachment inquiry without a full vote from the House of Representatives. And Speaker Pelosi has not disclosed whether she will have the full House vote.
In the history of the United States, discussion of impeachment of a president is quite rare. Additionally, no President has ever been removed from office through impeachment. Only Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton have been impeached by the House of Representatives, but they were not removed by the Senate. Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached or removed.
The Heritage Foundation has chronicled the primary purpose of impeachment: to address serious misconduct. “In drafting the Constitution, America’s founders provided for impeachment not as a partisan political weapon, or as an alternative to elections, but as a way to address serious misconduct by the president or other federal officials – conduct that betrays the public trust, breaks the law, or otherwise renders them unfit for office.”
Heritage backs this up with evidence from the Constitution. “During the 1787 convention… delegates rejected broad, vague language such as ‘malpractice or neglect of duty’ as well as a narrow category limited only to treason and bribery. Instead, they chose the phrase that appears today in Article Two, Section Four: ‘Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.’”
Now it’s important to note that since this controversy began several days ago, there have been numerous media reports that have later been determined to be false. For example, after news broke about the whistleblower, The Washington Post reported that acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire threatened to resign over conflict with the White House. The Post reported, “Joseph Maguire threatened to resign over concerns that the White House might attempt to force him to stonewall Congress.” Soon thereafter, PJ Media reported that, “Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire quickly dispelled a Washington Post report that he had threatened to resign if the White House did not allow him to testify openly about the whistleblower report… Maguire denied the report less than an hour after the Post published it.” As the impeachment talk escalates, it’s good to keep in mind the liberal bias of the media which The Daily Citizen has previously covered.
Impeachment is a severe punishment reserved for treason, bribery and other crimes. It is not a method to reverse the results of a previous election. As this debate cranks up, lawmakers should keep that in mind.
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Photo from The Washington Post