On Sept. 24, 2019, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made an official impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. Due to revelations from a whistleblower who alleged that Trump pressured foreign leaders, most notably the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. House Democrats suggest that Trump did this not because the Bidens had done anything particularly harmful or illegal, but simply because he was a potential rival for Trump in the 2020 election. Since then, Congress has moved to investigate and impeach Trump.
As of right now, Trump is the fourth president to have been considered for impeachment and the third to be formally impeached; Andrew Johnson in 1868, Richard Nixon, who would have been impeached had he not resigned, in 1974 and Bill Clinton in 1998. The process begins with a vote in the House of Representatives. According to Susan Grogan, professor of Political Science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland: “the process is whatever the House of Representatives say it ought to follow, it’s all up to them.” The House does have the majority of the power in the impeachment process.
Following the vote, if they move to impeach, then the House begins collecting evidence to see if the offense the President has committed is true and determine the severity. After the evidence is collected, the process then moves to the trial and depending on the outcome, a formal trial is held before the Senate where another vote is held. If there is a majority vote and the movement passes, the individual has been impeached, removing them from office.
Impeachable offenses, according to the US Constitution, are “Treason, Bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors.” There are many people, including Professor Grogan, who believe Trump had already committed impeachable offenses before the Ukraine scandal. Grogan stated: “one thing would be a violation of the emoluments clause, whereby his businesses are profiting either from the United States spending money to provide for his security and so on where foreign governments are spending money to stay at Trump facilities.” Many of Trump’s more outspoken objectors say that this violation of the emoluments clause as well as other acts that he has committed as president, such as the Stormy Daniels scandal were enough to impeach Trump long ago. However, this new scandal is what finally caused a formal vote in the House.
According to Tom McCarthy, a journalist for The Guardian: “in a July 2019 phone call, Trump asked Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to mount an investigation of his potential rival for the White House in the 2020 election, Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden – and also to investigate a Fox News-space conspiracy theory that Ukraine, instead of Russia, was behind foreign tampering in the 2016 election.”
In addition to that, Trump used many terms and phrases that hinted towards a much more significant involvement with the Ukraine government. One quote in particular, where Trump stated that “the United States has been very, very good to the Ukraine,” had people in a political uproar, wondering if the President had conducted favorable deals with foreign leaders behind closed doors. Despite the fact that the President is referring to the problems and questions that arise from this scandal as a “witch hunt” he still has confirmed his involvement with the Ukraine government. This offense falls under the standard of bribery in the definition of impeachment.
So where is the process going from here? According to Professor Grogan, “right now the process is in the investigatory stage. After that, the process will be moving primarily to the Judiciary Committee which will be holding hearings and that’s what’s being discussed before Congress.” As Grogan stated, the House is still investigating crimes that Trump is alleged to have committed. According to Grogan, “The White House has tried to stop the process by refusing to turn over evidence, by challenging the handing over [of grand jury materials from the Mueller investigation and by refusing to let people testify, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping anything.] It’s slowed it down but it won’t stop anything.” The country is still waiting and watching to see what the future will hold for the Trump administration.