Nixon resigned over it. Andrew Johnson was saved by one vote. Clinton is defined by it.
Impeachment is the act of Congress voting to remove a US President. This is not the same as a Vote of No Confidence which is essentially meaningless, but a powerful action that can boot the occupant out of the Oval Office and onto the political curb.
Now the 45th President, Donald J. Trump, is in the firing line.
There’s no denying that Congress has been itching to be rid of him ever since he took the Oath of Office on 20th January 2017. Thus far, they were unable to pick up any evidence, despite a string of controversies that made other Presidents look scandal free. Then came a shiny toy- the Ukraine scandal. It is reported that Trump asked the President of Ukraine to use his resources to investigate former Vice President and current Democratic candidate Joe Biden and hisson, Hunter in order to discredit his leadership campaign.
He apparently didn’t do this alone. Others are believed to be involved- Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York and current lawyer to Trump was thought to have been the go between. Another is Attorney General Bill Barr, who Trump reportedly asked the Ukrainian President to speak through. Though those are the only two explicitly tied to the investigation, it’s expected other high-profile figures like Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be asked to testify.
Trump has reportedly communicated with the Chinese also, asking them for a similar favour.
An anonymous whistle blower made the complaint, implicating Trump, Giuliani and Barr. This whistle blower also alleges that White House staff covered Trumps communications by placing the transcript in a computer system used for highly classified data.
The House can make its decision solely on one item, whatever it is. The crimes that can are impeachable offenses are very vague and not constitutionally defined by anyone. Importantly, ultimate power lies with the House, with no limits. Impeachment does not even have to be related to a crime- President Andrew Jackson was impeached simply for firing his Secretary of War. The likeliest cause of non-criminalrelated impeachment would be the President abusing power. More specifically, overusing executive power.
Nancy Pelosi reportedly told House Democrats she wanted to see Trump in jail. Whatever happens, it’s clear that the battle lines are being drawn. If the final result is impeachment, Trump Republicans and other sympathisers might further direct their anger against the system. In the short term, it would allow the Democrats an advantage in the Presidential race, as it did for Jimmy Carter. The long-term effect could favour either party.
If Trump is impeached or resigns, then Mike Pence will take the helm. It will be the tenth time a VP succeeded his senior this way, after 4 deaths, 4 assassinations and one resignation. If this is the case, it is likely he won’t want to continue the Trump legacy. Whilst it’s clear that many Democrats want to kill the Trump ideology in its cradle, the legacy of the new populist right has been forged.
Whatever happens, all will be decided by January 2021, when Congress rises.
Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr.