Frequently asked questions about the possible US presidential impeachment

The US Congress’ move to impeach President Donald Trump must be one of the hottest news items in recent times and one can only imagine how restless Trump is at this moment.

Chen Gong founded Anbound Think Tank in 1993. He is now Anbound chief researcher. Chen Gong is one of China’s renowned experts in information analysis. Most of his outstanding academic research activities are in economic information analysis, particularly in the area of public policy

The US Congress’ move to impeach President Donald Trump must be one of the hottest news items in recent times and one can only imagine how restless Trump is at this moment. He often tweets at 6am, right after waking up in order to attack his detractors and defend himself in impeachment related matters.

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There are many questions and confusions over the impeachment. Therefore, we have arranged a few frequently-asked questions and have provided answers to them.

 

Q: What is an impeachment?

 

A: Impeachment is a process in the US Constitution to force the president of the United States (POTUS) to step down. Congress can oust the POTUS because of  “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”. There is no clear definition of the scope of crimes that take place before the POTUS can be impeached. Whether the impeachment procedure is operational and successful, the decisive role in the final analysis is ultimately not up to a judicial interpretation, but has to do with the majority in the Congress. This means the majority in Congress determines the fate of the president. Therefore, the impeachment is not theoretically affected much by the law.

 

Q: Is the impeachment only targeting the POTUS?

 

A: According to the US constitutional procedure, impeachment does not just target the POTUS. Other than the POTUS, other members of the government or even judges can be impeached as well. For instance, there are those who called for the impeachment of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh, who is now caught up in sexual misconduct scandals.

 

Q: Who can initiate the impeachment?

 

A: This is not the responsibility of some of the top leaders of the US Congress. In theory, any member of the House of Representatives can initiate the impeachment process. However, in order to ensure the success of the impeachment, there must be a certain organisation most of the time. For this reason, the impeachment decision will usually be made by the House Committee on the Judiciary. As far as Trump is concerned, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, a Democrat herself, has taken the first step. She announced the launch of the impeachment procedure and that the investigation of Trump would be carried out by six committees.

 

Q: What is the next move after the announcement of the impeachment inquiry?

 

A: Impeachment is actually a form of charge in Congress and the result can either be “guilty” or “not guilty”. Therefore, after the announcement of the impeachment, investigations will be conducted, including interviewing witnesses, evaluating evidence and determining charges. Finally, a charge will be passed during the House of Representatives’ meeting. The passage of the bill requires only a simple majority to convict Trump. This is a summary of the so-called “impeachment”.

 

Q: After the conviction of the House of Representatives, does it mean that the impeachment is successful?

 

A: No, after the conviction, it will go through the Senate’s process. Therefore, after the conviction by the Senate, there should be a process of witness inquiry again. Thereafter, the senators will vote whether the defendant is guilty, or whether they should be dismissed. Unlike in the House of Representatives, there must be a two-thirds majority.

 

Q: How does the Senate

determine whether Trump is guilty?

 

A: In the House of Representatives, the Democrats have a significant majority (235 seats) in the total of 424 seats, so there is a high probability that Trump will be convicted through impeachment. However, the Republicans who support Trump have a majority in the Senate, with 53 out of a total of 100 seats. This means that in order to oust Trump, Democrats need to win at least 20 Republicans in the Senate. Therefore, the possibility that Trump getting impeached successfully is actually not that big.

 

Q: How many presidents in the history of the United States were impeached?

 

A: There have been a total of three presidential impeachment cases in the history of the United States when the House of Representatives has decided to initiate the impeachment process. However, none of the three impeachments were successful. In 1868, an impeachment was initiated against Andrew Johnson for “high crimes and misdemeanours”. In the end, the impeachment case failed because of the lack of sufficient votes – down to a single vote. In 1974, Richard Nixon was impeached for the Watergate scandal and Nixon volunteered to resign because the required majority would have successfully impeached him should he have opted to stay on as president. In 1998, impeachment was launched against Bill Clinton because of his attempt to cover up his sexual scandal and lies, disregarding the oath he made and trying to obstruct the judicial works. However, in the Senate vote, the vote was very obviously less than the required two-thirds for a successful impeachment, so Clinton was able to continue with his presidential position.

 

Q: Since it is difficult to successfully impeach from a procedural point of view, why does the Democratic Party still insist on impeachment?

 

A: There are many reasons for this, but now it is mainly down to three reasons. One is to educate society, or the more direct reason is to influence public opinion and lay the foundation for expanding the influence of the Democratic Party in the future. During Nixon’s time, only 19 percent supported him to be impeached, but in the later stages 57 percent supported the impeachment. It is worth noting that during the week of the impeachment, the number of people who supported the idea of Trump being investigated or impeached was close to or even more than 50 percent. The other is for the so-called US principle. The main motivation is to maintain the rule of law, that is to say that no one can be above the law – and that includes the POTUS himself. The last one is that when the investigation is on-going, it will worsen and expand the problem to become more serious as more things are disclosed and, finally, it will become an uncontrollable expose. From the perspective of a businessman like Trump, this situation is not surprising in the least and he seems to be well aware of this.

 

Final analysis conclusion:

 

It appears that Trump’s impeachment is a fierce issue and time is not on his side. Impeachments usually take several months. The longer the time passed, the more problems revealed and the more serious the impact. Pelosi, the leader of the House of Representatives, who is also leading the impeachment, was originally a member of the Intelligence Committee and has a good mastery of intelligence. Trump apparently underestimated the determination of the House to impeach him, thinking that things would be solved by merely clarifying his phone records. However, it appears that this is just the beginning.

 

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