Will President Donald Trump be impeached—and what has caused Speaker Nancy Pelosi to begin the process now?by Prospect Team / September 25, 2019 / Leave a comment
This week, Democrat and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into US president Donald Trump. The move comes following a growing scandal over allegations that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate Democratic presidential contender and rival Joe Biden.
Speaking to the House of Representatives on Tuesday evening, Pelosi said: “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”
So how does impeachment work?
As the US has a bicameral legislature—a fancy way of saying it has two chambers—like the UK, impeachment involves both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Article 2 of the United States constitution says that a person can be impeached for treason, bribery or the famous “other high crimes and misdemeanours.” (The House has the power to bring impeachment proceedings under Article 1.)
Any member of the House may bring a resolution for impeachment, with the bar for progress to the Senate requiring a simple majority. A two-thirds vote in the Senate is then required to convict.
At the moment, there is a Democratic majority in the House, but the Senate still has a Republican majority.
There is no option to appeal the Senate’s decision, and if the subject is convicted, he or she is then disqualified from “any office of honour, trust or profit under the United States.” There is no other punishment, although separate indictments for federal or state crimes could also be brought.
What counts as “high crimes”?
The ambiguity over what precisely counts as “high crimes and misdemeanours” has led to debate. This discussion is necessarily political in nature, due to the partisan nature of Congress.
As former New York assistant attorney and legal writer James D Zirin explains in his forthcoming book Plaintiff in Chief, “impeachment is a political process, not a legal one.”
This is why Richard Nixon, for instance, resigned when it became obvious he had little support from Congress and could be facing impeachment.
Why is this happening now?
Until recently, senior democrats had resisted calls to begin impeachment proceedings.
Information from an intelligence whistleblower, who lodged a complaint regarding phone conversations between the president and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, however, has prompted the party leadership to act.
The administration has refused to release the details of this…