Lily McLean, journalist and social director
WASHINGTON D.C.—On Wednesday, December 19, 2019, the House of Representatives impeached the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump. The vast majority of Democrats voted in favor of both articles of impeachment while all Republicans voted against them. The sole independent in the House, Justin Amash (who was a member of the Republican party until July of this year), also voted for impeachment.
Impeachment has long been a polarizing topic for Americans. As of December 19th, nearly 47% of Americans support it, according to a FiveThirtyEight poll. Interest impeaching the president began shortly after his inauguration, with current Democratic presidential candidate and billionaire Tom Steyer running a lengthy ad campaign in support of it for multiple years. It gained more widespread appeal during the Mueller investigation which sought to illuminate any Russian interference in American elections and connections Mr. Trump may have had to such interference.
Mr. Trump is being impeached on two counts. First, the House has established that he abused his power by “solicit[ing] the interference of a foreign government… In the 2020 United States presidential election.” This is based on accounts from multiple people in the Trump administration who say that the president threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine until the government there, headed by President Volodymyr Zelensky, agreed to look into and uncover political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden. Mr. Biden is currently running for president and is in the lead of the pack of potential Democratic candidates.
The second article of impeachment covers Mr. Trump’s obstruction of Congress. He directed staff members and people involved in the Ukraine effort not to comply with subpoenas issued by the House during its investigation. Since the House was granted by the Constitution the “sole power of impeachment,” this behavior is deemed by the House to be unlawful.
A Brief History of Impeachment
President Trump is one of only three presidents in the US to be impeached. Andrew Johnson, who entered office after the assassination of Abram Lincoln was impeached in 1868 after he violated the Tenure of Office Act, which required the president to get approval from the Senate before removing any officials appointed by the Senate. Mr. Johnson had fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton which angered many members of Congress. He was not removed from office.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. He had lied about having a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky during interrogation for a sexual harassment case brought on by Paula Jones. Mr. Clinton was not removed from office after the Republican-led Senate failed to get the necessary number of votes.
President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before he could be impeached by the House. Early into his second term, he was implicated in a burglary at Democratic offices. It was later discovered that he had been in charge of a campaign to attack political opponents and a large number of Republicans sided with Democrats in passing articles of impeachment. It seems likely that Nixon would have been impeached and then removed from office had he not resigned.
What Happens Next?
To be removed from office, the upper house of Congress, the Senate, must vote. Although the House of Representatives has a Democratic majority, the Senate is dominated by members of the Republican party and it seems unlikely that they will vote to remove Mr. Trump.
If Mr. Trump were to be removed from office, Vice President Mike Pence would become president. Mr. Pence, a former governor of Indiana, is a controversial figure in American politics. He has garnered criticism from many Democrats for his opposition to abortion and his murky record on LGBTQ rights.
Speaker of the House, Representative Nacy Pelosi, has yet to announce when she will send the articles of impeachment to the Senate.