Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 7 seconds

Perhaps then-U.S. Rep. Gerald Ford offered the most succinct assessment of impeachment proceedings: “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history,” he said, as cited by the American Bar Association (ABA).

Ford’s assessment was given during the 1970 effort to impeach Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and notes that an actual crime isn't needed to remove an official. The ABA notes there is no rule or law that dictates how a sitting senator, who is afforded a say when the House of Representatives decide on full impeachment, should vote. “Individual senators decide for themselves whether the official must have committed an indictable offense to be convicted; no Senate rule or constitutional provision imposes that requirement,” according to the ABA.

As noted in a recent Law and Crime article, impeachment expert Michael Lawlor said members of Congress are not required to act as judges, jurors or attorneys when considering impeachment. “That’s because impeachment is inherently political–not legal,” said the University of New Haven associate professor, according to the article.

The Nuts and Bolts of an Impeachment Inquiry, Per the ABA

In light of the recently announced impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, the ABA posted a fact check with some helpful information about the process and its history in the U.S.

  • “The final language in Articles I and II of the U.S. Constitution gives the House of Representatives the ‘sole power’ to impeach a federal officer by majority vote, a process akin to an indictment by a grand jury.”
  • “The Constitution gives the Senate ‘sole power’ to try all impeachment cases and requires “concurrence of two thirds of the members present.”
  • “The Constitution also states the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court will preside at a Senate trial for presidential impeachments.”
  • The most recent impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump is the fourth impeachment inquiry into the actions of a U.S. president.
  • The Senate conducted “formal impeachment proceedings” a total of 19 times. They have resulted in seven acquittals, eight federal judge convictions, three dismissals and a resignation.
  • “The Constitution gives the Senate the power—without mentioning a vote count—to disqualify a convicted officer from holding public office again.”

Pelosi Points to the 'Facts' of Trump’s Actions in Announcement

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said the “facts” of the President Trump’s actions--his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and related actions seeking dirt on political rival Joe Biden--justify launching the impeachment inquiry. “The President of the United States in his actions in a telephone call with a head of state betrayed his oath of office, our national security and the integrity of our elections,” said Pelosi during her announcement. “This is about the facts. This is about the Constitution of the United States. And, we have to make judgments in an inquiry as we go forward.”

Trump has defended his actions, though, and took to social media to defend himself. He said he has not done anything wrong and boasted the strength of the economy under his administration in recent tweets:

From Twitter:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
As President I have an obligation to end CORRUPTION, even if that means requesting the help of a foreign country or countries. It is done all the time. This has NOTHING to do with politics or a political campaign against the Bidens. This does have to do with their corruption!

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
Breaking News: Unemployment Rate, at 3.5%, drops to a 50 YEAR LOW. Wow America, lets impeach your President (even though he did nothing wrong!).

See this article from The Washington Post for another review of the matter.

Last modified on Saturday, 05 October 2019
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