×

Search. Find those deep cuts.

Menu Crooked Media
Crooked Media

The Impeachment Process: How Does it Work?

When someone is elected to public office, they take an oath to the American public: They promise to uphold the Constitution and put the interests of Americans before their own. So when a public official (especially, you know, the highest-ranking one in the country) violates that trust, Americans need a way to both acknowledge that violation—and act on it.

JAN.15.20

Impeachment. We’re back. Here’s what you can do right now.

Read more

FAQs

What exactly is impeachment?

It’s the process the Constitution lays out for removing presidents from office before their terms are up.

What is an impeachable offense?

The Constitution defines impeachable offenses as “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” but generally speaking they are actions a president takes to abuse his or her powers of office or violate public trust.

Has Trump committed an impeachable offense?

Yes, yes he has. To be specific, the ones the House Judiciary Committee is moving forward with are “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress.”

How are the crimes alleged in the Ukraine scandal different from the other crimes the president has committed?

Trump encouraged foreign interference in the 2016 election, has offered illegal quid pro quos, and obstructed justice before. The Ukraine scandal combines all of these crimes and adds to them:

  • He extorted Ukraine using his official powers.
  • The aid he withheld was mandated by an act of Congress.
  • He abused classification procedures to conceal embarrassing, criminal behavior on a classified server.

Is there any truth to what Trump is saying about Biden and his son Hunter?

No. It’s pretty much exactly the opposite: when Biden was vice president, his effort to have Ukraine’s prosecutor removed were part of an international anti-corruption alliance, and it actually left the company that his son consulted for more vulnerable to investigations.

So what happens in an impeachment process, how does it work?

It’s analogous to the legal system: The House passes articles of impeachment, which are like an indictment that lists charges, by simple majority (218 votes), and the Senate conducts a trial like a regular trial, except the jurors are senators and only two-thirds of them need to vote guilty for the conviction to stick. If 67 members convict a president on even a single article of impeachment, he or she becomes an ex-president. Any less, and the president is acquitted and may continue carrying out his or her duties.

Where are we in the process?

See below!

Once it gets to the Senate, what happens?

The Senate morphs into a courtroom with the Chief Justice of the United States (that’s John Roberts) presiding. In theory, the Constitution allows the Senate to ignore articles of impeachment altogether, but the Senate rules say that the trial is mandatory and must commence immediately. Senators, serving as jurors, hear evidence from both the House prosecution and the president’s defense team (which in Trump’s case will probably be Rudy Giuliani in handcuffs and a plastic skeleton in a Brooks Brothers suit), and then vote on the president’s guilt. It takes two-thirds of the Senate (67 members) to convict the president of impeachment. Any less, and the president is acquitted. If 67 Senators vote to convict, then the president has been removed from office.

If Trump is impeached, but this doesn’t remove him from office, why does impeachment matter? Will it show anything new? What’s the point?

The impeachment process derives its power from its ability to captivate the public. Like Trump’s Twitter feed, but for his crimes. Any president with 34 loyal senators on his side can survive an impeachment, but the process both educates the public about his or her conduct, and forces everyone in Congress to vote up or down on whether that conduct is acceptable.

Do we know how long all of this will take?

Nope! Once the House votes, the Senate will then decide how long its trial will last.

Are we worried about how this will affect Democrats in purple states or in districts Trump won?

This might have been worth worrying about if Trump hadn’t been caught trying to subvert the 2020 election…but since the crime Trump got caught committing was about hurting Democrats in the next election, seems kind of silly not to impeach him out of fear that it will hurt Democrats in the next election.

Should I be doing anything?

Call your senators to support a transparent and fair impeachment trial. Indivisible has resources available including a script and a call tool that does the hard part for you. 

The Tracker

LAST UPDATED Jan.17.20

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
1
10

Speaker of the House announces impeachment inquiry

On September 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the beginning of a formal impeachment inquiry in response to a whistleblower’s report that Trump pressured the government of Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden, and Biden’s son.

2
10

House committees investigate

Six committees have launched investigations into Trump. The House Intelligence Committee (the one led by Adam Schiff) took the lead in this inquiry, but the Judiciary Committee will decide which charges—known as articles of impeachment—to present to the full House.

3
10

House votes on rules for inquiry

On October 29, the House approved the rules for the impeachment inquiry on a close-to-party line vote, with 231 Democrats and 1 independent (formerly a Republican) voting for, and 194 Republicans and 2 Democrats voting against.

4
10

House Intelligence Committee holds public hearings, compiles report

On November 13, the Intelligence Committee began its first public, televised hearings and concluded them on November 21.

5
10

House Judiciary Committee holds public hearings

The Intelligence Committee compiled a report of its findings and submitted it to the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on December 4. White House lawyers were invited to attend but declined to participate.

6
10

House Judiciary Committee debates articles of impeachment, votes whether to send to full House vote

The Judiciary Committee will debate and vote on which articles of impeachment will be sent to the full House for a vote. A simple majority of the Judiciary Committee must approve the resolution to send it to a full House vote. The Committee has 42 Members (24 Democrats and 18 Republicans), so 22/24 Democrats must vote in favor (assuming no GOP support).

7
10

House votes on impeachment

The Articles go to the House floor for a vote. A simple majority must vote to approve the Articles (that number is normally 218, but since there are currently four vacant seats, we only need 216).

8
10

House votes yes, goes to the Senate

If the House approves the Articles, BOOM. The House has impeached Donald Trump. On to the Senate.

9
10

Senate trial is held, with Senators acting as jury

The Senate now becomes a courtroom over which the Supreme Court Chief Justice presides. Senators, serving as the jury, hear evidence from both the House prosecution and the president’s defense team, then vote on the president’s guilt.

10
10

Senate renders impeachment verdict

The Senate will render a verdict. It takes two-thirds of the Senate (67 Members) to convict the president of impeachment (i.e. remove him from office). Any less, and the president is acquitted and may resume duties.