The president of the United States faces impeachment in the last days of his term. How the process will unfold
Donald trump on Wednesday became the first president of the United States to be impeached for the second time by the House of Representatives, which sent it to judgment in the Senate for “inciting insurrection” in the seizure of the Capitol by his supporters.
A week before Trump leaves the White House, all Democrats and 10 Republicans voted in favor of this second historic impeachment. In total, the prosecution received 232 votes to 197.
This charge against the Republican president will trigger a trial in the SenateBut the upper house is not expected to take up the matter until after Democrat Joe Biden is inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States on January 20.
What is the process?
The United States Constitution establishes that Congress can remove the president (or vice president, or federal judges …) for “treason, corruption, or other serious crimes and misdemeanors.”
The procedure takes place in two stages.
First, the House of Representatives votes, by a simple majority (218 votes in 435), the articles of impeachment that detail the charges against the president: this is called “impeachment“in English. This has already happened.
The House of Representatives voted the position of “incitement to insurrection“, prompted by Trump’s fiery speech before his supporters’ assault on Capitol Hill on January 6.
Then, it is up to the Senate to organize the impeachment.
At the end of the debates, all 100 senators vote on the impeachment. A two-thirds majority is required to pass a conviction, in which case removal is automatic and without appeal. If the necessary votes are not reached, the president is acquitted.
Senators can then vote, with a simple majority, other penalties, such as the prohibition to run for a new term.
What is the background?
There have been three impeachment trials in American history, all of which ended with an acquittal.
The Democratic President Andrew Johnson he was indicted in 1868 after one of his cabinet members was fired.
In 1998, the Democrat Bill clinton He was indicted for “perjury” for having lied about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
In December 2019, the Republican Trump He has already been indicted in the House of Representatives for “abuse of power” and “obstructing the proper functioning of Congress”.
He was accused of asking Ukraine to investigate alleged corruption linked to his Democratic rival and current president-elect Joe Biden, in exchange for unlocking crucial military aid for the country at war.
The Senate, with a Republican majority, acquitted him on February 5, 2020 after two weeks of trial.
Republican Richard Nixon, in 1974, preferred to resign to avoid impeachment by Congress due to the Watergate scandal.
Trump is indicted on the serious charge of “incitement to insurrection.”
How is a former president judged?
If the House of Representatives votes to impeach Trump, his trial will not begin until Jan. 19, the last day of his term, at the earliest, Republican lawmakers, who are under pressure from Democrats to act faster, said Wednesday.
The Constitution does not specify how to act after the defendant has left office. In 1876, senators debated whether they were competent to try then Secretary of War William Belknap after he left government. They finally decided in the affirmative and acquitted him of the corruption charges against him.
The Constitution also does not set a timetable. Therefore, the House could wait before transmitting the impeachment file to the Senate, to give it time to confirm the new team in power and validate Biden’s first measures.
Trump will be one of the few American presidents to face impeachment.
What are the possible outcomes?
The Senate is split 50-50 among Democratic Republican legislators. Therefore, a two-thirds majority seems difficult to get, especially since, in the case of Ukraine, only one Republican senator had voted with the Democrats.
But the accusation presented in the Lower House establishes that in case of conviction, Trump will be “disqualified from any official role“.
Given that Trump toyed with the idea of a new candidacy in 2024, the prospect of removing him from politics for good could encourage some Republican senators to find him guilty.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he is not ruling out voting to remove him.
“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to hear the legal arguments when they appear in the Senate,” McConnell said in a note to his Republican colleagues.
McConnell could call an emergency session of the Senate, currently in recess until Tuesday the 19th, or even urge his caucus to vote against Trump even though Biden has already relieved him.
Trump, however, remains popular with millions of Americans, which could slow some lawmakers from condemning him.