How hard is it to impeach a president?
The idea of impeachment has been tossed around ever since Donald Trump stepped into the Oval Office. And now, House Democrats have officially brought articles of impeachment against him. Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee introduced five charges, including obstruction of justice for firing James Comey, undermining the independence of the federal Department of Justice, and undermining the freedom of the press. And while it might sound as if impeachment is imminent based on the above, in reality the (lengthy) process is only in its earliest stages.
What is impeachment?
The term impeachment refers to the act of bringing charges against a sitting president. Two former presidents — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton — have been impeached. But in order to be actually removed from office, a president must be convicted of the impeachment charges in a trial. No former president has been removed from office; President Nixon resigned before his impeachment trial began.
How does it work?
The House of Representatives votes on impeachment. If a majority of Representatives vote to bring forward the charges, a trial is held in the Senate. In the trial, the chief justice of the Supreme Court acts as judge and members of the House act as prosecutors. The president is allowed to hire defense lawyers. Two-thirds of senators must then vote to convict a president in order for the president to be removed from office.
Impeaching Trump would likely be difficult because Republicans have a majority in both the House and the Senate. Convicting Trump would require 67 senators to vote for it, meaning 13 Republicans would have to support impeachment. So far in Trump’s term, Republicans in Congress have overwhelmingly sided with him, voting in favor of his policies. And, what’s more, according to The Atlantic, many Republicans in Congress consider the allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to be sensationalized. If that’s the case, it could be difficult to convince Representatives to vote for Trump’s impeachment.
The Republican National Committee had a negative response to the impeachment charges.
"House Democrats lack a positive message and are completely unwilling to work across the aisle, so instead they've decided to support a baseless and radical effort that the vast majority of Americans disagree with," RNC spokesperson Michael Ahrens said in a statement.
It’s possible that the makeup of Congress will change after the 2018 midterm elections, making impeachment more plausible. But for now, it’s probably more efficient to concentrate on the ways you can fight for social justice. There are absolutely ways to help, regardless of who’s in the Oval Office.