A Slightly Less Confusing Explanation of Impeachment

Dallas Mercurio '20, Co Editor-in-Chief

Whispers of impeachment have been circulating through the minds of the American public since the results of the 2016 presidential election. Now that the impeachment inquiry hearings have started becoming public, many are wondering what does impeachment mean? Here are some answers for your political questions.

What does impeachment mean?

In the entire history of the United States of America, many presidents have faced cries of impeachment, but only three presidents, Andrew Johnson in 1868, Richard Nixon in 1947, and Bill Clinton in 1998, have gone through impeachment inquiries. And in the entire history of the US, only two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been formally impeached by Congress. Impeachment is the process of formally charging a president of violating the Constitution. Impeachment does not always lead to the president being removed from office. As the BBC states, “It’s important to note that [impeachment] is a political process, rather than a criminal one.” This is an important distinction between the impeachment process and the criminal trial process because the two processes have different rules and procedures.


What caused this current impeachment inquiry?

According to the BBC, the cause of this current impeachment proceeding is “whether or not he [the current president Donald Trump] improperly sought help from Ukraine to boost his chances of re-election in 2020.” What was this improper help? Those pushing for Donald Trump’s impeachment say that he pressured the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to find information about former vice-president Joe Biden’s son – information President Donald Trump hoped would hurt the former VP in the upcoming 2020 election. The pressure President Donald Trump put on Ukraine’s president was the threat of withholding $400 million worth of military aid from Ukraine, which Congress already promised to give to Ukraine, as well as a White House meeting with the president. Bribery and abuse of power are unconstitutional, and if president Donald Trump is proven guilty, this would be a stain on his legacy, but doesn’t necessarily mean he would be removed from office. 

What do they do during an impeachment process?

The impeachment process can seem very confusing at first. Instead of describing it in a way that may confuse further, here is a helpful flow chart from the BBC: 

























How long will this take?

It’s not clear. Impeachment inquiries don’t have a specific timeline they have to follow. Johnson’s took days, while both Nixon and Clinton’s impeachment process (including hearings) took months. Experts think that the impeachment inquiry will end just in time for the 2020 election next year. 


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