Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022

Explained: US House Impeaches Donald Trump, But Is He Really On His Way Out?

The US Constitution requires a trial by the Senate to convict an impeached president by a super majority of two-thirds

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Donald Trump has become the third President in US history to be impeached as the House of Representatives formally charged him with abuse of power and obstructing the Congress, setting up a Senate trial next year that will decide whether he remains in office after three tumultuous years.

The House on Wednesday night impeached President Trump on two counts - abuse of power and obstructing the Congress.

The first article of impeachment, abuse of power, was on party lines with 230 to 197 votes. The second article of impeachment, obstruction to the Congress, was voted 229-198 votes.

Will Impeachment Remove President Trump From Office? 

The answer is No. The US Constitution provides that the House of Representatives “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.” But it’s the Senate which has the right to hold a trial of impeachment where a two-thirds ‘super majority’ is required to convict a president. When the Senate holds a trial, it’s presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme, a position held in normal proceedings by the Vice President.

On conviction in the Senate, the president would be immediately removed from the office. A second trial by the Senate can also be held, through a simple majority, to bar the convicted president from holding any office of “honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.” No further punishment is envisaged under the Constitution. The presidential authority to pardon any person does not extend to impeachment proceedings.

The Constitution provides that 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.” No definition of high crimes and misdemeanor is given in the Constitution, but the Congress -- and the US Supreme Court -- has generally taken a very wide view of this injunction. Of the 19 officers impeached in the US, 15 have been judges and so have been all the eight removed by the Senate. The Senate has only voted to bar three officers from any further office.

Has Any US President Ever Been Removed Through Impeachment?

No US president has ever been removed from office through impeachment.

President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House of Representatives in May 1868 for violating the Tenure of Office Act. But the Senate could not convict him, falling short by one vote in a 35-19 ruling. The Act was later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, after it was repealed by Congress.

President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House on two counts of perjury and obstruction of justice. The Senate acquitted him by a 55-45 vote on obstruction of justice and by a 50-50 vote on perjury.

In the case of President Richard Nixon, the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve three articles of impeachment – obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress -- for the full House of Representatives. However, Nixon resigned before the House could take up the impeachment proceedings.

In the case of Trump, several committees of the House of Representatives – Financial Services, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Reform as well as Ways and Means – took up the impeachment inquiry against him for “enlisting the assistance of foreign governments with re-election.” With the Intelligence committee approving the inquiry on Tuesday, the whole process now moves to second last stage – to the Judiciary Committee -- before moving to the full house.

Trump’s impeachment in the House of Representative is only a matter of time, because Democrats have an upper hand there with 233 members to 197 in a 435-member house. Only a simple majority is required for impeachment. One member in the House is independent and four seats are vacant.

But removal of the president from office is highly unlikely, because the Republicans have a majority of 53 to 45 in the Senate. There are two independents in the 100-member upper house.