How Does The Impeachment Process Work?

Nicholas Kallipolites

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Last December, the House of Representatives voted on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, specifically abuse of power and obstruction. Both were passed with votes mainly falling on partisan lines. All 195 Republicans in the House voted against both articles and nearly all Democrats voted in favor of them with only a handful of exceptions. The process itself has begun to raise questions about what qualifies for an impeachable offense, along with potential motives from each political party.

Three months earlier in September, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi launched an impeachment inquiry on Trump, after a whistleblower revealed that Trump withheld $400 million of military aid from Ukraine for damaging narratives on Joe Biden, one of his political opponents. Additionally, information about Russia’s involvement with the 2016 election was included as another element in the inquiry.

Many Americans believe that impeachment means the complete removal from office. Kate Scholes, an AP United States History teacher who is currently teaching about impeachment, emphasizes in her classes that the definition is different from the majority’s understanding.

“Impeachment simply means to be charged with bribery, treason, and other high crimes and misdemeanors,” said Scholes.

After passing the articles of impeachment, the next step in the process is discussing the rules of the trial. The policies of impeachment trials can differ depending on the administration, and it was a topic of fierce discussion for this trial specifically. Both political parties agreed on 24 hours over three days for each party to present their arguments, and then 16 hours for Senators to ask relevant questions. While the policies of the trial were being discussed, Nancy Pelosi withheld from sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate. They were sent to the Senate on January 15th, and the trail officially began on January 20th.

While the trial was in session, senators were not allowed to access any electronic devices or talk. That meant long days in the chamber either taking notes, zoning out, chewing gum, passing notes, or literally falling asleep. Members from both political parties succumbed to the typical behavior of a high school classroom.

At the end of the trial, Senators voted on if they want to subpoena witnesses to testify in the trial. Democrats advocated for this throughout the entire process while Republicans took defensive action to prevent moderate members of their party from swaying to the other side. Only a simple majority, 51 out of 100, is required to win the vote. The Republicans fulfilled their desire and won the vote 51-49 against the Democrats, two independents, and two Republicans who broke ranks. That means the Senate will not hear the testimony of witnesses, and will proceed directly to the vote on whether to remove or acquit Trump.

The impeachment trial of Donald Trump has been a polarizing time for the United States, with both political parties trying to get the upper hand in the government. This is not the first time this has happened in our nation’s history, though.

“During times when the country is politically divided are the times when we’ve seen impeachment proceeding or discussion of possible impeachment.” said Scholes.

The impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1999 and Andrew Johnson all the way back in 1868 marked periods in the past when the United States was either as polarized or even more so. Junior Stefen Mee, a student of Scholes’s AP United States class, observed a potential reason for the division in contemporary politics.

“Executives [in news agencies] who believe in certain political views attempt to cater to audiences who have the same perspective by adding bias to their stories. This goes both ways for both political parties.” said Mee.

Regardless of your perspective on politics, it is important to read thoroughly about it to stay updated with the most relevant information. Also, find multiple sources to make sure you’re not staying in an echo chamber of only one thought process.

“I urge students and adults to watch American history as it unfolding and ask questions.” said Scholes.