The US constitutions states that a president “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanours.” Impeachment goes through two stages of Congress. It begins in the House of Representatives where they vote on whether to impeach the president. After this, a trail is held in the Senate. After this trial takes place, Senators vote on whether to convict the president or not. If less than two thirds of the Senate vote to convict, then the president remains in office. Otherwise, the president is removed and the vice president takes over.
Impeachment has happened before. It first occurred in 1868, where Andrew Johnson was accused of dismissing the secretary of war against the will of Congress. He narrowly escaped being removed from office by just one vote short of a two third majority. After this, Richard Nixon was threatened with impeachment over the Watergate scandal. However, Nixon resigned in 1974 before this could happen. In 1999, Bill Clinton found himself impeached on the grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice after he lied about the nature of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Allegedly, he asked her to lie as well. However, this failed to get the two thirds backing that it needed in the Senate.
Moving on to the 21st Century, Donald Trump was impeached for his involvements with Ukraine. In the lead up to the 2020 election, Trump sought help from Ukraine to investigate his main democratic challenger, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter. Hunter served on the board of Burisma, a major Ukrainian natural gas producer. This was at the same time that his dad was US vice president. At that time, Viktor Shokin, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, was fired. Now, Trump wanted to investigate whether or not there was a link between Shokin being fired and Joe Biden. In Trump’s words Biden “wouldn’t give billions of dollars to Ukraine unless they fired the Prosecutor who was looking at his son and his son’s company… and that is very dishonest.” However, Trump was actually accused of bribing the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, for information. This lead the House of Representatives to impeach his with abuse of power in the Ukraine affair and obstruction of Congress.
However, Trump has three arguments in his defence:
- The transcripts show nothing wrong with the call. Nothing could be interpreted as bribery or extortion.
- Volodymyr Zelensky, himself, said that he did not feel pressurised.
- Republicans insist that it is a president’s right to investigate corruption in a foreign country. Especially, if it involves a political rival like Joe Biden and his family.
Trump, overall, said that it was a personal attack on his presidency.
After his trial in the Senate, run by the president’s fellow Republicans, the result of the vote found him not guilty. He was acquitted 52-48 on charges of abuse of power and 53-47 on obstruction of Congress. Now, Trump will be the first impeached president to seek re-election.