President on Trial.
The House of Representatives voted on December 18 to impeach President Trump.
It was only the third time in American history that a president has been impeached, and the decision to take such an extraordinary step fell larqely along party lines.
"It represents not just a historical rarity," says Frank Bowman, a law professor at the University of Missouri and an expert on impeachment, "but also a pretty serious judgment of one house of the legislature that an American president has done something bad enough that he ought to be removed from office before the American public has a chance to judge for themselves."
The Founding Fathers created the impeachment process as a way to remove a president for significant wrongdoing. The House approved two articles of impeachment, voting 230 to 197 to charge President Trump with abuse of power and 229 to 198 to charge him with obstruction of Congress.
The next step is a trial in the Senate. What happens there will determine the future of Trump's presidency. Here's a guide to following the action.
1. How does the Senate trial compare to a court trial?
The outlines are the same: A group of Democrats from the House, known as House managers, will serve as prosecutors, laying out the case against Hump (see "Sitting in Judgment," facing page). The president's own lawyers will defend him. Chief Justice John G. Roberts will preside over the proceedings, much as a judge would in a trial. All 100 senators will act as the jury, each casting one vote. A two-thirds majority (67 senators) is needed to convict the president.
But there are also some important ways in which this trial will differ from a court trial. First of all, each time the Senate considers articles of impeachment, it establishes a new set of rules for how the trial will be handled, whereas courts function with a fixed set of rules. And the chief justice will not have the final say as a judge would; he can be overruled on procedural issues if a majority of senators vote to do so.
"How it plays out is going to be almost entirely a political choice," says Bowman. "That's what makes this so different."
2. What's the Democrats' argument?
The Democrats say Trump used the power of the presidency to pressure Ukrainian leaders to publicly launch investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, a top Democratic challenger in the 2020 election. Several witnesses testified that the Hump administration, in an effort to pressure Ukrainian officials to announce those investigations, withheld some $400 million in military aid that Congress had approved.
Democrats are saying that by soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election, the president abused the powers of the Oval Office for his own personal gain.
3. What's the Republicans' defense?
President Trump has denied any wrongdoing and called the impeachment proceedings "presidential harassment." Republicans in Congress have mostly defended Hump by saying this is much ado about nothing: After all, they reason, Ukraine ended up getting the U.S. military aid, and Ukraine never did announce an investigation into Biden. And regardless of what happened, they say, this isn't serious enough to warrant removal from office.
4. What happens after the verdict?
Because the Senate is controlled by Republicans who are inclined to defend the president, most observers expect Hump to be acquitted. If that happens, Trump remains in office.
However, if 20 Republican senators join the 47 * Democrats-who are likely to vote to convict Trump on at least one article of impeachment--then President Hump would be removed from office. Under Article 2 of the Constitution, Vice President Mike Pence would succeed him and become president. This has never happened before. (Three presidents have faced impeachment: Andrew Johnson was acquitted by the Senate in 1866, as was Bill Clinton in 1999. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 with his impeachment gathering steam in the House.)
Even though most observers expect Trump to survive the vote, Ross Garber, an expert on impeachment at Hilane University in New Orleans, says history shows us that circumstances can change quickly.
"Surprises can happen," he says. "Nixon's support was very solid until suddenly the bottom dropped out."
5. How might the impeachment affect the 2020 election?
Here, we're in uncharted territory. There has never before been an impeached president on the ballot seeking re-election. Andrew Johnson didn't get his party's nomination in 1868. Bill Clinton was in his second term when he was impeached, so he couldn't run in 2000. But President Hump is expected to be the Republican nominee in November.
"This is not a gold star in the history books," says Larry Sabato of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "But I'm not sure how much effect it's going to have on the election. Everybody already knows who they're voting for."
So far, Trump's base of supporters hasn't been swayed by the revelations of the impeachment inquiry or the vote itself. But the president's approval rating has hovered around 40 percent for most of his presidency, so he might need to reach beyond his base to win in November.
And if the impeachment hasn't swayed Trump's core supporters, there's little doubt that it has fired up his opponents. "Impeachment will energize the Democratic base, and that's going to increase turnout," Sabato says. "Turnout is going to break all records."
* Includes two Independents who caucus with Democrats
WATCH A VIDEO about the impeachment process at UPFRONTMAGAZINE.COM
Sitting in Judgment
100 senators will decide the president's fate in his impeachment trial. Here's how the trial will work.
Two Articles of Impeachment: Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress
Who's On the Jury?
45 Democrats * 2 Independents * 53 Republicans
Once the trial starts, Senate rules require every senator to be present at their desks in the chamber six days a week until the proceedings conclude.
Trial Managers Serve as the Prosecution
(appointed by the House of Representatives)
President's Lawyers Serve as the Defense
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Serves as the Judge
If fewer than two-thirds of senators (67) vote to convict Trump ...
President Trump remains in office.
If at least two-thirds of senators vote to convict Trump ...
President Trump is removed and Vice President Mike Pence becomes I president.
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|Title Annotation:||the impeachment of Donald Trump|
|Publication:||New York Times Upfront|
|Date:||Jan 27, 2020|
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