How the impeachment process works


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A lot of people have looked up the definition of one word in the last 24 hours, i.e. impeachment.

Political Science Professor Bruce Mallard says in a nutshell what the U.S. House is doing right now “is kind of like the grand jury. They decide if there’s sufficient evidence to have a trial.”

On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that there would be a formal Impeachment inquiry in the House.

Mallard says that’s basically investigations (he says to think of it as police investigating a crime to determine what they think occurred and if someone should face charges) and if things move forward, i.e. with the majority of the House voting to level articles of Impeachment, then things move forward with an actual trial.

“And that second stage is that the trial is held in the Senate and senators act like a 100 person jury,” said Mallard.

He says that House investigators would present evidence to the Senate for its consideration (much like a prosecutor at a criminal trial) and that the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court presides over the Senate proceedings.

The last step is that senators vote and two thirds must vote to remove President Trump from office or to allow him to stay in office.

“The only thing that can come out of Impeachment is removal from office,” says Mallard. “You can’t go to prison, you aren’t fined but you are prohibited from ever running for president again if you’re convicted,” says Mallard.

The last time a president was impeached was in 1998 when Bill Clinton faced a trial in the Senate but Clinton was not convicted by the democratic majority in the Senate at that time.

The first president to be impeached was Andrew Johnson in 1868. Johnson was also not convicted by the Senate at that time.

Many Americans who remember Watergate may assume that Richard Nixon was impeached but Nixon resigned from office before that process could begin.

Mallard says back to 2019. He says it’s been clear for months now that many Senate Republicans will stand with President Trump and never vote him out of office. “And that’s the complication that has been there all along, people have said the House Democrats shouldn’t pursue a conviction because it’s a big waste of time,” said Mallard.

In terms of the Constitution Mallard said he’s not sure “he likes that approach”, i.e. one that so heavily relies on the political climate to ascertain whether impeachment should even be tried.

“It police acted like that you know they might not make an arrest because they would say well we could never get a conviction,” says Mallard.

Mallard says it’s clear politics will play a big part in the process. “So this obviously will be conducted in a time when we’re electing a new president but there’s no roadmap to follow here,” says Mallard.

Mallard says this process may take several months and could go into 2020 which is an election year. “I would say just be patient and you’re going to have to raise your tolerance for tweets from President Trump,” said Mallard. “You’re going to hear this is all about Joe Biden, not him.”

There are four stages to the process:

1) A House of Representatives Committee must decide to recommend Impeachment.
2) A majority of House members must vote to approve
3) A trial is then scheduled to be held in the Senate with all 100 Senators essentially serving as jurors
4) After the trial, two-thirds of the Senate must vote to remove the person from office. If not, the president is acquitted

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