Ever since his induction in 2017, Democrats have hinted, and outright petitioned, towards starting the process of impeaching President Donald Trump. On September 24, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially announced a formal impeachment inquiry of Trump. So what exactly does that mean? To put it simply, it means that Congress thinks the president is no longer fit to serve and should be removed from office. In order to begin the impeachment process, the president does not have to have done anything illegal, rather it could be something unjust against the best interest of the American people. In Trump’s case, he may have violated a law that prohibits the solicitation of an illegal foreign campaign contribution.
The push for the start of the impeachment process stems from the recent whistleblower disclosure. They shared that this summer Trump repeatedly pressed the leader of a foreign country, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, to investigate the activities of former Vice President Joe Biden. The news that the president had urged a foreign leader to go after his main American political competitor sparked anger among Democrats. That anger escalated even further on Monday night with the further disclosure that Trump had delayed military aid to Ukraine just before he made his request. That implied that Trump had withheld congressionally appropriated funds to coerce a foreign leader to do him a political favor. Not only did the whistleblower talk about the call, they also described how officials in the White House tried to soon after cover up and hide the call’s transcript; something else that also contributed to Democrats’ anger and decision to push the impeachment process.
Hours after her public announcement, Pelosi delivered a speech, officially announcing that the House of Representatives is moving forward with an impeachment inquiry. “The President must be held accountable,” she declared, “No one is above the law. Getting back to our founders, in the darkest days of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote that times have found us, that times found them to fight for and establish our democracy. The times have found us today.”
Republican presidential advisers believe the impeachment inquiry will ultimately backfire against Democrats. The President himself said the move could help his electoral chances, but he reacted initially with a slew of angry tweets that accused Democrats of engaging in “a witch hunt” and “presidential harassment.” He tweeted:
“There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have. The Democrats are frozen with hatred and fear. They get nothing done. This should never be allowed to happen to another President. Witch Hunt!”
So what does this mean moving forward? Even if Democrats get enough votes in the House to Impeach Trump, they still need a vote from the Senate. The president can technically “be impeached” through the House but without a majority vote in the Senate he cannot be removed. If the Senate votes not to remove him, he will still be able to run in the upcoming election. No president so far in American history has gotten to the point where the Senate has voted for their removal, thus it is unclear if – under those circumstances – Trump will be able to run in the 2020 election. It seems extremely unlikely that the process will get that far. In fact, it’s possible that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could just refuse to hold a trial. As of now, Trump still has all the same rights and power as he did before and will until the House and Senate officially vote on anything. The only downside for Trump right now is that it may be a little harder for him to pass legislation with no support from the Democrats in Congress during the process of the impeachment inquiry.
Despite the excitement surrounding the possible impeachment, many believe that it was a bad move on the Democrats’ side. “Trump likes to portray himself as an abused victim of that establishment, so impeachment actually plays directly into his political narrative.” explains Wall Street Journal writer Gerald Seib. The impeachment dynamic plays directly into the 2020 presidential campaign, further polarizing the bases of the two parties—particularly if the Democratic presidential nominee is Biden, who stands at the center of the president’s actions on Ukraine.
At this point, much of the speculation about the impeachment process has been hypothetical “what ifs”. Yes, there is evidence against the president that could prove him unfit for his position, but is that enough? As of now we can all hope that the leaders we elected into office will make sure they handle the situation appropriately and do what’s in the best interest of the American people.