What can an individual be impeached and convicted for?
The Constitution gives the powers of impeachment and conviction to Congress and 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."
The House can impeach the President or any other civil officer with a simple majority (51%), after which, the process moves to the Senate, where a conviction can only be reached with a two-thirds majority (67%).
The Supreme Court has reiterated that the powers of impeachment and conviction are entirely those of the legislative branch, and not the judicial or executive. The impeachment process is separate from any criminal prosecutions carried out by the U.S. Justice Department for violations of federal law and is not reviewable by the federal courts. It is Congress’ responsibility to prove that “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” were committed.
In short, impeachment is a political process controlled by Congress, and is a tool to punish wrongdoing as defined by the constitution, not to settle policy disputes.
The American people have the opportunity to weigh in at the ballot box on any misuse or abuse of the impeachment power, just as they do to establish a policy mandate for the country. For instance, after impeaching President Clinton, congressional Republicans faced backlash and lost seats in the subsequent election.
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On Tuesday, September 24, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House would launch a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump. What happens next is to be determined, but here are three possibilities:
In recent history, the House has initiated the impeachment process by voting to have a committee investigate charges against a particular federal officer. This was the case in 1973 with Nixon and in 1998 with Clinton. Nancy Pelosi has claimed that she does not need a vote to begin the process, but, in reality, she is avoiding a vote to protect approximately a dozen Democratic House members who believe they will lose reelection due to impeachment of President Trump.
Because the House has not formally voted to begin the process, the Trump Administration will likely not treat subpoenas, or other requests for information, as having the weight of impeachment law behind the requests. This will likely have two effects: 1) Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats will challenge the Trump Administration in court to compel them to comply with the impeachment inquiry, and 2) the first stage of the impeachment process will drag out over a longer period of time.
On the first effect listed above, this will enter largely untested legal waters. Pelosi will attempt to use the legal process to threaten Administration officials to comply with her requests or risk their own legal problems, and she will threaten to add the “noncompliance” with her impeachment inquiry to a list of impeachment charges against President Trump.
On the second effect, Pelosi and Democratic Leadership have desperately tried to avoid entering into an impeachment fight because the House Democratic majority will be at risk due to voters generally supportive of President Trump’s policy advancements and disagreeing with impeachment.
While the initial phase of this impeachment battle shows the rank partisanship in which Pelosi and the House Democrats are engaging, the House will likely proceed with filing articles of impeachment against President Trump. Before the articles are filed, committees tasked by Speaker Pelosi with the impeachment inquiry will investigate and compile evidence they believe shows wrongdoing by President Trump. The House Committee on the Judiciary has jurisdiction of impeachment matters and will most likely receive those allegations of wrongdoing from the other committees involved. The Judiciary Committee will then package all of the allegations and supposed evidence into a formal articles of impeachment along with a resolution recommending that the House of Representatives impeach the president.
The articles of impeachment and the resolution recommending impeachment will be voted on by the full House of Representatives. Agreeing to the impeachment of President Trump will only require a simple majority vote. If the House has its full membership at the time of the vote, 218 yes votes will pass the resolution and the president will be impeached. The House will then name managers, essentially prosecutors, to try the case against President Trump in the Senate.
If the House does vote to impeach President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated, “I would have no choice but to take it up based on a Senate rule on impeachment.” The rule to which McConnell is referring requires the Senate to receive the House managers of impeachment, provide the opportunity for the managers to reveal the articles of impeachment on the Senate floor, and begin the trial no later than one o’clock in the afternoon of the following day.
Normally, the Vice President of the United States, as President of the Senate, presides over Senate business, but in order to avoid a conflict of interest, the Constitution directs “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.” In the case of President Trump being impeached, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts will preside over the trial, maintaining order and ensuring Senate rules are followed.
However, while Leader McConnell is correct that the Senate must consider the articles of impeachment, there are several different possibilities for how the Senate could deal with the impeachment of the president. The Senate could begin the trial and in short order move to dismiss the articles of impeachment. They could also entertain a motion to send the articles and the trial to a committee of the Senate. They can dismiss some articles (if the House makes more than one accusation against the president) and hold a trial on the other articles. They could also have a full blown trial on the Senate floor at which President Trump’s defense attorneys would be able to present and examine evidence, to call and cross-examine witnesses, and to deliver opening and final arguments.
Once the trial has taken place, the Senate will likely debate in executive (or closed) session followed by a vote on conviction in open session. In order for the president to be convicted of the accusations contained in the articles of impeachment, two-thirds of senators voting (not necessarily of all 100 senators) to convict is required to remove President Trump from office. The Senate may then vote to bar the president from holding federal office again.
1. Impeachment is as serious an exercise that our representative government can undertake. The cavalier manner in which Speaker Pelosi is beginning this process exposes the worst kind of partisan politics. Presidents Nixon and Clinton faced an impeachment inquiry only after a vote by the House. Pelosi is buckling under the pressure of left-wing activists to impeach President Trump while violating the process to protect Democratic members who may lose reelection if they vote on impeachment.
2. President Trump immediately took action no other president has done when he declassified personal communications with the leader of the Ukraine that quickly became the focal point of House Democrats. Yet, House Democrats, from mere days after the 2016 election, have been determined to impeach the president and are claiming President Trump said things on that phone call that the transcript does not show he said.
3. The effort to impeach President Trump began before he was inaugurated with Senators Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin, and others tying the president’s business ventures to a violation of existing law and making that tie a “high crime or misdemeanor under the impeachment clause of the U.S. Constitution.” The first articles of impeachment were drafted in 2017, just months after President Trump took office. Democrats have been intent on impeaching the president since the very beginning.
4. All the facts in this impeachment reveal a nakedly partisan attempt to overturn the will of the American people. It is an illegitimate attempt to overturn the election of President Trump in 2016.
Cries for impeachment are a partisan distraction from the issues that matter:
The American people don’t want a toxic and costly impeachment. They want their elected representatives to focus on the issues and get back to work.
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Impeachment is a political, not a criminal process. Congress sets its own rules on how to conduct an investigation, when to impeach, and how to conduct a trial in the Senate. It is a tool to punish wrongdoing, not to settle policy disputes.
When impeaching and removing a government official, It is Congress’ responsibility to prove that “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” were committed.
The House can impeach an official with a simple majority (51%). The Senate can then convict and remove with a two-thirds (67%) vote.
The Founders gave impeachment powers to Congress because it is the branch closest to the people. If Congress abuses its power, Americans can hold Congress accountable in the next election.
The majority of Americans oppose the impeachment of President Trump. And in five key swing states, 65% of likely voters are opposed to impeachment, including 68% of independents.
Radical liberals have gone impeachment crazy. Many leftist legislators are also calling for the impeachment of Justice Kavanaugh. Their motives are blatantly partisan as they are also calling for adding seats and packing the Supreme Court if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2020.
Liberals are abusing the impeachment process for political gain. Liberals have been calling for President Trump’s impeachment since before he took office The first articles of impeachment were drafted in 2017, just months after President Trump took office. This is just the latest step in political theater.
Nancy Pelosi has broken with important precedent by unilaterally declaring an impeachment inquiry. The House has not voted to open an impeachment inquiry as it did in 1973 for Nixon and 1998 for Clinton.
Congress should be legislating, not investigating. We need to secure the border, fund the government for 2020, and address the real issues facing our nation.
My name is [NAME] from [CITY AND ZIP CODE] and I am calling today to urge [MEMBER OF CONGRESS] to stop wasting time and money on an impeachment inquiry when there is real work to do.
Congress needs to spend it’s time addressing the real issues facing our country:
Wasting time, money, and resources on an impeachment investigation is not in the best interest of the country. Congress needs to stop buckling to pressure from the extreme left and get back to work.
For example, Congress still hasn’t passed appropriations bills to fund the government for the current fiscal year.
Please tell [MEMBER OF CONGRESS] to focus on legislation and not this distraction of an investigation.
Thank you for passing along my message.
Congress should be LEGISLATING. Not obstructing. 📣@MEMBEROFCONGRESS: focus on passing meaningful legislation instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on an impeachment inquiry. Need some ideas: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/07/29/trump-2020-republican-message-policy-heritage-action-227481 #LegislateNotInvestigate @Heritage_Action
Let’s get this straight. 🤔 Congress WILL waste time and money endlessly investigating impeachment but Congress will NOT secure the border or pass appropriations bills to fund the government and military #LegislateNotInvestigate @Heritage_Action
According to @Heritage_Action polling, Americans don’t want Pelosi’s #WitchHunt! Instead of an impeachment inquiry, I want Congress to do their job and pass meaningful bills that make life better for all Americans. #LegislateNotInvestigate
Congress won’t take action to secure our border but they will launch another #WitchHunt investigation. Congress should be legislating, not investigating! #LegislateNotInvestigate @Heritage_Action
Someone should launch an investigation into why Congress refuses to secure the border! Instead of trying to impeach the President, Congress should try doing it’s job to protect the American people. #LegislateNotInvestigate @Heritage_Action
If Congress has enough time to open an impeachment inquiry, why can’t they find the time to do their jobs and pass a government funding bill that cuts wasteful spending and secures our border? #LegislateNotInvestigate @Heritage_Action