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What is Impeachment?

Simply put, it is a political process undertaken by the House of Representatives to bring about charges against a government official.  Popular opinion believes impeachment is the removal from office. This is incorrect though they are connected. If the impeachment process does establish cause for charges against a government official, the Senate may take it up in trial and remove the official from office.

As written in Article I, Section II, Clause V of the Constitution: "The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment."

As written in Article II, Section IV, Clause I of the Constitution: "The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

Impeachment is not a criminal procedure and the common legal framework for a criminal case do not apply.

How do Impeachments and Trials work?

The specific rules for impeachment have been altered over the years but the general gist has remained the same. The House of Representatives creates an impeachment inquiry akin to a Grand Jury in common criminal cases.  Committees within the house then hold interviews, depositions and inquiries to gather facts and evidence. Each committee submits a report to the House Judicial Committee who then determines if they have sufficient evidence to bring the impeachment to trial before the Senate.  The House will draft official Articles of Impeachment which function like indictment charges in a criminal case.

The Senate holds a trial where they function as the Jury, the House as the Prosecutors, the impeached government official as the defendant and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as judge.

Each Article of Impeachment is voted upon by the Senate. It requires a 2/3rds majority vote on any Article to remove the official from office.  The Senate may hold a further vote to completely disqualify the accused from ever holding any federal government office again.  This disqualification vote only requires a simple majority.

Impeachments and trial convictions can be challenged for appeal however they cannot be pardoned by another president.

History of Impeachment.

While there have been a total of 62 impeachment proceedings, only 4 have been applied to the President...including the current impeachment. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton are the only two presidents to have ever been fully impeached though both were acquitted by the Senate during their trial. Richard Nixon resigned before the Articles of Impeachment could be voted upon.  This means no president has ever been both impeached and removed from office.

Why is president Donald Trump being Impeached?

A House Intelligence Committee investigation began on Sept 9, 2019 after a whistleblower filed a complaint claiming President Trump engaged in a personal quid pro quo during a phone call with the newly elected president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. It is alleged that Trump abused the power of his office to pressure the new Ukrainian president to announce investigations into the son of a 2020 presidential election rival, Joe Biden, by withholding ~$400 million in previously approved foreign military aid.

What is the defense against Impeachment?

The initial defense rested with ire at the process of the impeachment inquiry rather than with the issues themselves. The Republican party wanted the House majority leader, Nancy Pelosi, to call for a vote to formalize the impeachment inquiry and move from the private depositions to public hearings.  As both have come to pass, the defense has transitioned to focus on denial of the accused actions and lack of direct witnesses testifying.  This stems from the whistleblower complaint being labeled as hearsay rather than a first hand account and therefore deemed invalid regardless of corroboration.

Other defensive postures have taken to interpretations of the Constitutional application of impeachment - "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."  It is claimed that the allegations against President Trump, even if true, do not qualify as any of the aforementioned applications. Similarly related are notions that we do not have a legal or well defined understanding of what "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" mean with regards to impeachment.

The primary defense for President Trump in the Impeachment Inquiry is being managed by the ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes. 

Last edited by SpokenTruth - on 06 December 2019

Massimus - "Trump already has democrat support."