Unpresidented: A Rundown of How Impeachment Actually Works
Since you've been online today, there's no doubt you've seen something about the impeachment procedure that Donald Trump is currently facing. At some point or another we all learned what the impeachment process is in school but let's be honest, most of us likely don't remember how it all actually works. So is Trump actually getting impeached? We're here to give you the quick and dirty about how impeachment works and where the president currently falls in the process.
First things first, the process of impeachment is used by Congress to determine whether or not to remove a government official from office. It doesn't determine whether that official will get arrested or go to prison as that is a completely separate process that would be carried out by law enforcement officials.
The Constitution gives Congress the power to impeach but doesn't specify a step-by-step process of how to carry it out so Congress has created its own procedure made up of two phases. Impeachment is actually only the first half of the removal process of an official.
To initiate this process, the House of Representatives must start an official investigation known as an impeachment inquiry to determine whether or not the official in question has actually committed an impeachable offense. The speaker of the House assigns special committees to conduct various aspects of this investigation.
Impeachable offenses are known as articles of impeachment and if the special committees find any, then they'll vote on whether or not to pass them. If the committees pass the articles, then the next step is for the entire House of Reps to vote on them. If at least 51% of House members vote in favor of the articles, then they've been approved and the president is officially considered impeached.
After impeachment comes the second phase of the removal process: a trial. The trial of a president is comparable to that of an average citizen. In this case, the judge will be the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Senate will take on the role of the jury. The House of Representatives will basically act as the prosecutors and the president will be given counsel to provide the defense.
The House of Reps will present their evidence then both sides will provide closing statements. Afterwards, the senators will deliberate on the matter and vote on whether or not the president is guilty. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote guilty in order for the president to get removed from office.
The process is a pretty long one and although you've been hearing about Trump getting impeached for months, they're still in the first half of the process. After months of investigations, Nancy Pelosi aka the speaker of House, and the House Judiciary Committee have officially approved the articles of impeachment which means they're now be up for vote in the House of Representatives. At this point, Trump is still not technically considered impeached, he's just in the process.
Should Trump actually get impeached, he would join a historically tiny club as only two other U.S. presidents have ever been officially impeached (Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998). Even then, neither Johnson nor Clinton were found guilty in the Senate so they got to keep their presidential position. If Trump were actually to get convicted, he would be first and only president to be removed from office making that a pretty unpresidented - we mean unprecedented moment in history.