What can an individual be impeached and convicted for?
The Constitution gives the powers of impeachment and conviction to Congress and states: "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
The House can impeach the President or any other civil officer with a simple majority (51%), after which, the process moves to the Senate, where a conviction can only be reached with a two-thirds majority (67%).
The Supreme Court has reiterated that the powers of impeachment and conviction are entirely those of the legislative branch, and not the judicial or executive. The impeachment process is separate from any criminal prosecutions carried out by the U.S. Justice Department for violations of federal law and is not reviewable by the federal courts. It is Congress’ responsibility to prove that “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” were committed.
In short, impeachment is a political process controlled by Congress, and is a tool to punish wrongdoing as defined by the constitution, not to settle policy disputes.
The American people have the opportunity to weigh in at the ballot box on any misuse or abuse of the impeachment power, just as they do to establish a policy mandate for the country. For instance, after impeaching President Clinton, congressional Republicans faced backlash and lost seats in the subsequent election.
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What can we expect from the House and what is at stake politically for Democrats?
On Tuesday, September 24, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House would launch a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump. What happens next is to be determined, but here are three possibilities:
- The House could find nothing and close the investigation.
- The House could investigate in perpetuity effectively tying up the legislative calendar for the remainder of the year.
- The House could move forward and hold a vote to impeach the president.
In recent history, the House has initiated the impeachment process by voting to have a committee investigate charges against a particular federal officer. This was the case in 1973 with Nixon and in 1998 with Clinton.
Nancy Pelosi originally claimed that she does not need a vote to begin the process, but, in reality, she was avoiding a vote to protect approximately a dozen Democratic House members who believe they will lose reelection due to impeachment of President Trump.
Due to public opinion and growing political pressure, Pelosi did eventually hold a vote on October 31. This vote more formally began the impeachment inquiry by laying out the rules and procedures that would be followed in committees. However, these rules were partisan, giving the minority party few rights, and denying many of the due process protections afforded to Presidents Nixon and Clinton.
While the initial phase of this impeachment battle shows the rank partisanship in which Pelosi and the House Democrats are engaging, the House will likely proceed with filing articles of impeachment against President Trump. Before the articles are filed, committees tasked by Speaker Pelosi with the impeachment inquiry will investigate and compile evidence they believe shows wrongdoing by President Trump. The House Committee on the Judiciary has jurisdiction of impeachment matters and will most likely receive those allegations of wrongdoing from the other committees involved. The Judiciary Committee will then package all of the allegations and supposed evidence into a formal articles of impeachment along with a resolution recommending that the House of Representatives impeach the president.
The articles of impeachment and the resolution recommending impeachment will be voted on by the full House of Representatives. Agreeing to the impeachment of President Trump will only require a simple majority vote. If the House has its full membership at the time of the vote, 218 yes votes will pass the resolution and the president will be impeached. The House will then name managers, essentially prosecutors, to try the case against President Trump in the Senate.
What can we expect from the Senate after a House Vote?
If the House does vote to impeach President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated, “I would have no choice but to take it up based on a Senate rule on impeachment.” The rule to which McConnell is referring requires the Senate to receive the House managers of impeachment, provide the opportunity for the managers to reveal the articles of impeachment on the Senate floor, and begin the trial no later than one o’clock in the afternoon of the following day.
Normally, the Vice President of the United States, as President of the Senate, presides over Senate business, but in order to avoid a conflict of interest, the Constitution directs “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.” In the case of President Trump being impeached, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts will preside over the trial, maintaining order and ensuring Senate rules are followed.
However, while Leader McConnell is correct that the Senate must consider the articles of impeachment, there are several different possibilities for how the Senate could deal with the impeachment of the president.The Senate could begin the trial and in short order move to dismiss the articles of impeachment. They could also entertain a motion to send the articles and the trial to a committee of the Senate. They can dismiss some articles (if the House makes more than one accusation against the president) and hold a trial on the other articles. They could also have a full blown trial on the Senate floor at which President Trump’s defense attorneys would be able to present and examine evidence, to call and cross-examine witnesses, and to deliver opening and final arguments.
Once the trial has taken place, the Senate will likely debate in executive (or closed) session followed by a vote on conviction in open session. In order for the president to be convicted of the accusations contained in the articles of impeachment, two-thirds of senators voting (not necessarily of all 100 senators) to convict is required to remove President Trump from office. The Senate may then vote to bar the president from holding federal office again.
How should conservatives react?
1. Impeachment is as serious an exercise that our representative government can undertake. The cavalier manner in which Speaker Pelosi is beginning this process exposes the worst kind of partisan politics. Presidents Nixon and Clinton faced an impeachment inquiry only after a vote by the House. Pelosi is buckling under the pressure of left-wing activists to impeach President Trump while violating the process to protect Democratic members who may lose reelection if they vote on impeachment.
2. President Trump immediately took action no other president has done when he declassified personal communications with the leader of the Ukraine that quickly became the focal point of House Democrats. Yet, House Democrats, from mere days after the 2016 election, have been determined to impeach the president and are claiming President Trump said things on that phone call that the transcript does not show he said.
3. The effort to impeach President Trump began before he was inaugurated with Senators Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin, and others tying the president’s business ventures to a violation of existing law and making that tie a “high crime or misdemeanor under the impeachment clause of the U.S. Constitution.” The first articles of impeachment were drafted in 2017, just months after President Trump took office. Democrats have been intent on impeaching the president since the very beginning.
4. All the facts in this impeachment reveal a nakedly partisan attempt to overturn the will of the American people. It is an illegitimate attempt to overturn the election of President Trump in 2016.
Congress should be legislating, not grandstanding
Cries for impeachment are a partisan distraction from the issues that matter:
- Congress continually fails to address the humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.
- Congress failed to pass appropriations bills to fully fund our government by the Oct. 1 deadline.
- Congress is ill-prepared for the new Nov. 21 funding deadline it set for itself.
The American people don’t want a toxic and costly impeachment. They want their elected representatives to focus on the issues and get back to work.
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Key Talking Points
Impeachment is a political, not a criminal process. Congress sets its own rules on how to conduct an investigation, when to impeach, and how to conduct a trial in the Senate. It is a tool to punish wrongdoing, not to settle policy disputes.
When impeaching and removing a government official, It is Congress’ responsibility to prove that “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” were committed.
The House can impeach an official with a simple majority (51%). The Senate can then convict and remove with a two-thirds (67%) vote.
The Founders gave impeachment powers to Congress because it is the branch closest to the people. If Congress abuses its power, Americans can hold Congress accountable in the next election.
The majority of Americans oppose the impeachment of President Trump. And in five key swing states, 65% of likely voters are opposed to impeachment, including 68% of independents.
Radical liberals have gone impeachment crazy. Many leftist legislators are also calling for the impeachment of Justice Kavanaugh. Their motives are blatantly partisan as they are also calling for adding seats and packing the Supreme Court if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2020.
Liberals are abusing the impeachment process for political gain. Liberals have been calling for President Trump’s impeachment since before he took office The first articles of impeachment were drafted in 2017, just months after President Trump took office. This is just the latest step in political theater.
Congress should be legislating, not investigating. We need to secure the border, fund the government for 2020, and address the real issues facing our nation.
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