What is going on in the swamp?

Everything you need to know about impeachments


Artwork by Aidan Scott

A graphic of Donald J. Trump, one of the three presidents who have faced impeachment.

The Steps of the Impeachment Process

Recently, the word “impeachment” has circled around the media. The official definition according to CBS news of “impeachment” is “the constitutional process where the … House of Representatives brings charges against a civil officer,” this time referring to the president of the United States.

The process of impeachment generally takes the following steps:

Congress can open an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives can vote on it, but they are not required to do so by the U.S. Constitution.
Different House Committees put together different parts of the impeachment case and then the House votes on the Articles of Impeachment.
If the Articles of Impeachment pass the House by a simple majority, then the President has been “impeached.” This does not, however, mean he or she is removed from office.
The case goes to the Senate, and the members of the House serve as the prosecutors to argue the case and the president can bring his own counsel. During this time, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court oversees the proceedings. The president is removed if the Senate votes with a two-thirds majority based on the trial.

The History

No presidents have ever been removed from office, but two presidents have been impeached.

In 1868, President Andrew Johnson dismissed his and former President Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, but he did not do so with the consent of Senate, and the consent of the Senate required by a law called Tenure of Office Act.

The House passed 11 articles of impeachment against Johnson for violating this Act, and in reply, Johnson stated the Act was unconstitutional. The Senate tried the case and subsequently fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to remove Johnson.

In 1972, there was what is known as the Watergate scandal during President Richard Nixon’s term. President Nixon sent officials of the Republican party to the Democratic headquarters to add wiretaps in order to hear conversations in the headquarters. The members were caught and arrested. It was found that President Nixon had a connection during his re-election campaign and asked for the men to do so.

The House voted on an impeachment inquiry and later began the impeachment process. However, the House never got a chance to vote on the Articles of Impeachment, as Nixon resigned knowing that he would have been impeached and removed based on the evidence. So, President Nixon was technically never impeached or removed.

Former President Bill Clinton was impeached for a very different reason altogether. The origin of the impeachment started with the real estate White-Water controversy but was later based on his revealed relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones accused him of sexual harassment in a lawsuit, filing two days before the state three-year limit and the lawyers for Jones brought in Lewinsky to talk about her relationship with the president. Lewinsky was brought in because she told a confidant about her relationship with Clinton and the lawyers were going to use it in support of Jones’s claims. Lewinsky stated that there was no sexual relationship of any sort occurring between the two, and Clinton concurred. It was later shown that Clinton did have a relationship with her leading to the perjury charge. In 1998, Clinton was impeached on two articles: perjury and obstruction of justice. The trial took place in the Senate, but both charges fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for removal.

Current Status

Wednesday, Nov. 13, the first televised hearing of witnesses in connection with the impeachment inquiry aired. The hearings are held to build a case against current President Donald Trump for possible abuses of power by allegedly withholding aid in order to pressure Ukraine to investigate the former Vice President of the Obama Administration and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The top diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor Jr., and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, George Kent, were the first to testify during the first public hearings.

The first impeachment hearing consisted of William Taylor Jr. who testified to overhearing a discussion between Trump and a senior administration official about possible investigations about the Ukraine incident in the future. George Kent stated that he believed President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani conducted a campaign to dig up “political dirt” on the Bidens.

On Nov. 15, the second hearing of the Trump impeachment began. Marie Yovanovitch, a former United States ambassador to Ukraine, testified and inquiry revealed that she felt targeted by Trump’s allies and felt “unsafe” with the president himself. Yovanovitch is a foreign service officer with more than 30 years at the State Department, having also served in Somalia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. 

Day three of the impeachment hearings took place on Tuesday, Nov. 19, where four key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry testified: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs for the NSC (National Security Council), Jennifer Williams, special advisor on European and Russian affairs to vice president Mike Pence, Kurt Volker, former United States Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, and Tim Morrison, former political advisor on the White House National Security Council, giving further information regarding the situation.

Lt. Col. Vindman and Jennifer Williams debunked the conspiracy theories about the Biden family in 2016. Both stated that there was no evidence suggesting Joe Biden did anything wrong in Ukraine as vice president while his son, Hunter Biden, worked for Burisma. Kurt Volker’s testimony relayed Joe Biden’s credibility on the Ukraine matter. Stating, “the suggestion that he would be influenced in his duties as vice president by money for his son simply has no credibility to me. I know him as a man of integrity and dedication to our country.”

Day four of the impeachment hearings took place on Friday, Nov. 20, where Gordon Sondland, United States Ambassador to the European Union, Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and David Hale, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs testified.

The hearings ended with former National Security Council Russia expert Fiona Hill and Ukraine diplomat David Holmes testifying. Holmes testified to two instances of quid pro quo and went into a further explanation for them. Holmes is a key witness of the impeachment hearings as he heard the phone calls with Ukraine first-hand. Hill testified about the nonpartisan work that she does and how one should not be quick to promote anti-Ukraine ideas in the face of Russian aggression. She was looking to explain why the money was withheld and the investigation into Biden for the 2020 Election.

The House Intelligence Committee met on Thursday Dec.3, where ranking member Adam Schiff conducted an inquiry related to the Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. The House Intelligence Committee pressed that President Donald Trump abused his power by pressuring his relations with Ukraine to help him in the 2020 presidential election.

The committee approved a report that found evidence of Donald Trump’s misconduct. The report will be the main topic of the impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

The Trump impeachment inquiry was moved along to the House Judiciary Committee on Dec.4, where the first public hearings were held. This shift of committee’s marked an important step for the impeachment hearings, moving from an investigation to a judiciary panel. This judiciary panel has the job of drafting the articles of impeachment after reviewing the evidence from the intelligence committee.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Dec. 5 that the House of Representatives will be moving forward with the Articles of Impeachment against President Trump. The White House counsel will not participate in the impeachment hearings.

On Tuesday Dec.10, House Democrats released two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. During a press conference on Dec. 10, ranking member Adam Schiff stated, “The president’s continuing abuse of power has left us no choice. To do nothing would make ourselves complicit in the president’s abuse of his high office, the public trust, and our national security.”