Within the next two weeks, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote to impeach the president of the United States. Only three times before in the 232 years since the U.S. Constitution was written has the House drawn up articles of impeachment against the sitting president.
An entire library could be filled with the innumerable words, documents and comments written or spoken about the possible impeachment of President Donald J. Trump. The words that count the most are found in the U.S. Constitution itself, which provides for the impeachment process at five points. Now is a good time to review what the Constitution requires:
- Article 1, which establishes the duties of Congress, says in Section 2: "The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers and shall have the sole power of impeachment."
- In Article 1, Section 2: "The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside. And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.
"Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and Punishment, according to law."
- Article 2 vests executive power in the president and says in Section 2: "he shall have the Power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."
- Article 2, Section 4 states: "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."
- Article 3, which sets the duties of the judiciary, says in Section 2 that: "The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury."
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Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached by vote of the House. But neither was convicted by two-thirds of the Senate (Richard Nixon resigned before the full House voted on them.) There is virtually no chance that the Senate will vote Trump out. The House is expected to divide on party lines for the impeachment vote, which will carry because Democrats have a majority. If the Republican-majority Senate takes a vote, it will keep the Republican president in office.
The House is on the brink of impeachment this week largely because of what Trump said in a July phone call with the newly elected president of Ukraine, events leading up to that call and related to that call.
To House Democrats, the president's actions are an abuse of his power for his attempt to gain a personal political favor from a foreign country while withholding congressionally approved funds until the favor was completed. In addition, the House accuses the president of obstruction of Congress while the House exercises its constitutional authority to investigate President Trump.
Republicans are sticking with Trump, accusing Democrats of abusing their power and arguing that the process is not fair.
The process of impeachment is indisputably constitutional. Impeachment will show that Congress has not completely ceded its constitutional authority to the executive, that there may be some hope of restoring the separation of powers that the Constitution mandated. Importantly, the American people have heard and will hear more about what the president and his administration did. Ultimately, the most important vote will be next November. U.S. voters will decide whether Trump's pressure on Ukraine is acceptable conduct for the president or not.