A (Simplified) Guide to Trump’s Impeachment

By Hannah MacDonald, Global Issues Division Head. Image can be found here

What is impeachment?

Before diving into this whole mess of a topic, let’s first establish what impeachment actually means and why it was created. Impeachment, by definition in the U.S. Constitution Article II Section 4, states that “The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” In others words, it is when a legislative body levels charges against a U.S. official. It is not, however, the actual removal of the government official from office. 

Only two U.S. presidents have been formally impeached by Congress, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, with the third now being Donald Trump. None of which, thus far, have been removed from office through impeachment. Written in 1867, C.M Ellis, a writer whose work is documented in The Atlantic, explains that “[the need for impeachment] was framed by men who had learned to their sorrow the falsity of the English maxim, that ‘the king can do no wrong,’ and established by the people, who meant to hold all their public servants, the highest and the lowest, to the strictest accountability.” The system of impeachment serves as a way to keep American citizens safe from what the founders had fled, and whether or not you’re into politics, I encourage you to tune in because we’re all witnesses to history in the making. 

Background

Prior to Trump stepping into presidency, political groups had been talking about his impeachment. On January 20th, the day Trump was sworn into office, the Washington Post released an article titled “The campaign to impeach President Trump has begun,” with the opening line stating, “At the moment the new commander in chief was sworn in, a campaign to build public support for his impeachment went live at ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org.” The first attempt to start an impeachment inquiry was in 2017 led by Democrats Al Green and Brad Sherman, but the impeachment resolution failed. However, after Democrats gained the house in 2018, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi suggested in 2019 that impeachment inquiries were necessary, and by September 24th, 2019, a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump had begun. 

What Was Trump Impeached For? 

The investigation against Trump was formed on what is now being called the Trump-Ukraine scandal. In a conversation with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine, word got out that Trump had asked Ukraine’s president to investigate the Bidens’ role in Ukraine, and, if not, Trump would withhold U.S. aid. This action is referred to as Quid Pro Quo, “something that is given or taken in return for something else,” However, President Zelenskyy “insisted that he never discussed a quid pro quo with President Trump tying U.S. military aid to a request for political favors,” but still “hit the Trump administration for the delay in that aid and for critical statements about his country.” In addition, the White House released the transcript between President Trump and President Zelenskyy, which you can read here. Trump had asked Ukraine to look into the Biden’s because of Hunter Biden’s involvement with the Burisma board in Ukraine, in which Biden was receiving thousands of dollars a month, prompting Trump to question the correlation with Hunter’s father at the time as acting Vice President; this subject has become a focus of the impeachment hearings. Regardless, the overarching question of whether or not Trump’s actions “damaged or endangered U.S. national security” prompted the long-time-coming impeachment trial. After 6 hours of debate in which Republicans and Democrats went back and forth in one to two minutes speeches about why they were for or against impeachment, the House passed two articles of impeachment against President Trump: Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Justice.  

Questions Still Lingering

This impeachment has proved unique with two main questions that are still lingering: 

  • Is it okay for an impeachment to be completely partisan?
  • Were the two impeachable articles constitutionally justified? 

Article 1, Abuse of Power, passed with a 230-197 vote. Article 2, Obstruction of Congress, passed with a 229-198 vote. Not only were both votes split by party with zero Republicans crossing line, but a few Democrats also voted no against one or both articles. The only representative to vote present was Democratic Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who said, “I came to the conclusion that I could not in good conscience vote either yes or no.” Whether these results depict a politically motivated trial or just how polar our country has become, it gives rise to the following question about how constitutional the impeachment was (reminder, a president may be impeached on the grounds of Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors). Representative Nadler, New York’s Democratic 10th Congressional District Representative, tweeted that “the Framers worst nightmare is what we are facing in this very moment. President Trump abused his power, betrayed our national security, and corrupted our elections, all for personal gain. The Constitution details only one remedy for this misconduct: impeachment.” Alan Dershowitz, however, a Harvard Professor and also self-identified “Liberal Democrat,” explains Trump’s impeachment: “Take the worst, worst, worst-case scenario — the president abused his foreign policy power to gain political advantage. How many presidents have done that over time?…It’s not any kind of a crime. It may be a political sin — that’s a good reason for deciding who to vote for — but it’s not a good reason for removing a duly-elected president…It would be unconstitutional to impeach the president on these grounds.” Avoiding the politics of it, the language of the Constitution is clear regarding impeachable offences, and love him or hate him, critics from not only the Republican party, but Democrats, too, who by majority dislike the President, are still raising questions about whether this specific interaction with the Ukraine President was indeed a “high crime or misdemeanor” worthy of impeachment. 

What’s Next?

The Constitution gives the “House of Representatives the sole power to impeach an official, and it makes the Senate the sole court for impeachment trials.” With the house voting yes on impeachment, the trial moves forward to the Senate. The Constitution requires that a ⅔ majority must vote “guilty” to remove him from office, and given the Republican hold of the Senate, it is highly unlikely the Articles pass. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans want to “have a vote on acquittal — to clear the President of the charges against him.” In the meantime, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that she will hold off sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate in order to use them as “leverage for negotiations on the rules of the trial.” Thus, there is no date set for when we will be witnessing the next stage of the impeachment trial, but, when it does come around, please tune in. I’m sure your grandchildren will be asking you about it someday when they’re doing their history homework! 

Prayer

As our country becomes increasingly divided over these political issues, it is more important than ever that we bring the focus back to God and put Him at the center of our lives and our country. Feel free to pray these short guided prayers and expand on them as you wish. 

Father God,

  • First, we apologize for putting ourselves at the center of our lives instead of You. We can’t remove the darkness in our country without removing it in ourselves, so I ask that you fill our hearts with love and wisdom in order to allow us to become a nation that is glorifying to You. We are One Nation, Under God, and time and again we forget what that means and put You on the backburner. We surrender ourselves to You Lord and ask for forgiveness and mercy. 
  • We pray for protection over our land and our people. Please watch over us and keep us safe under Your mighty hand. We also pray that You will grant in us compassion so that we may not turn on each other in political strife. 
  • Above all we ask for wisdom. Please give us the wisdom we need to choose leaders who will advance Your Kingdom and wisdom for how we should treat each other in a time filled with great turmoil. 
  • We pray over President Donald Trump. As President of the United States, we ask that you will give him wisdom to make the right choices and allow his heart to seek You. We ask that Your hand be over this upcoming trial and the 2020 elections. God we pray for Your will to be done and for peace in the midst of this political divide.

Proverbs 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”