How the Impeachment Process in America Works
In light of President Trump's impending impeachment proceedings, it is wise for us to remember how this process works and what are the steps it will take to actually remove Trump from office.
Following Nancy Pelosi's announcement on September 24, 2019, Donald Trump became the fourth president in American history to face impeachment proceedings. Prior to him, only Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were formally impeached, and Richard Nixon faced inquiries by the House of Representatives before quickly resigning from his position after the Watergate Scandal.
Besides presidents, though, there have been many impeachments in US history, since impeachment can take place on the federal level and the state level. The federal House may impeach any federal officer, including the President, Vice President, any member of the Senate, or any elected officer of the House of Representatives, for example. States legislature can impeach state elected officials such as the governor in accordance with their state constitution.
Thanks to this amazing graphic by Statista.com, we are able to see a simplified chart of the presidential impeachment process.
Impeachment begins when legislature brings charges against the president for crimes allegedly committed, and it ends with an indictment by a grand jury. For presidential impeachment, this process begins with the House of Representatives. Impeachment proceedings usually concern alleged crimes that were committed while in office, but it is possible to begin proceedings for crimes committed prior to taking office as well.
Once the House passes through its own Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives, the charges are passed on to the Senate to begin the trial period. Imagine the House of Representatives as the law side of the process (Compiling charges and writing the article of impeachment), and the Senate as the order side of the process (Formal consideration of the charges). The two forms of government serve as Law & Order in this impeachment process.
These proceedings take a lot of time. The investigation process can last as long as four-to-eight months, and the Senate could possibly delay things for just as long, possibly even longer. It is difficult to pinpoint an exact amount of time an impeachment process takes, but if the House and Senate are upright in the proceedings, justice should be served.
Impeachment is not to be taken lightly either. It carries a lot of weight in the United States, and although many presidents and other leaders have been threatened with impeachment since the birth of the country, the limited amount of times it has been enacted should communicate the severity of the action.
As for President Trump and the road going forward, only time will tell how these current charges will pan out. In the likely case that the Senate will not reach a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate Trial, the charges will be dropped and Trump will continue his presidency to term. In the unlikely case that the Senate actually does reach a majority vote in the trial, Trump will be removed from office and would be replaced by his Vice President, Mike Pence.
The United States has a lot happening at the moment in the political realm, and 2020 is shaping up to be quite the eventful year. Not only is the next presidential election happening, but Trump will simultaneously be running for reelection and facing the charges of his impeachment. It will be quite interesting to see how he approaches both matters in the coming year.