A College Student’s Guide to Presidential Impeachment


Marissa Pekular, West Hills Editor

Today, many college students may find themselves confused by incessant bureaucratic banter, overwhelmed by the deep party divide, or may just not be particularly politically savvy.

Whatever reason it may be, this guide to impeachment will help to navigate the ever-changing labyrinth that is American politics.

The impeachment process was established by the creators of the constitution as a way to determine if an acting president is guilty of any crimes. By its original design, it is not easy to get rid of a president, as the trial process is rigorous.

If a president is ever suspected of committing an impeachable offense, congress can open an official investigation concerning the allegations. For example, near the end of September, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that the House Judiciary Committee was launching a formal impeachment inquiry into the president’s personal dealings. Donald Trump is accused of asking Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his potential political opponent Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Essentially, Trump is being accused of conspiring with foreign entities by asking for help in winning a US election.

Constitutionally, after a member of the House proposes an impeachment resolution, committees of the House will investigate the allegations. Then, the Judiciary Committee will evaluate the collected evidence. If it is deemed sufficient, the House will vote on the articles of impeachment. In this case, several House committees have been gathering evidence regarding the allegations made against Donald Trump. On Oct 31, a divided House of Representatives voted to endorse the impeachment inquiry. This approved resolution outlines the rules for the president’s impeachment process.

The president will be impeached if the majority of the House approves the articles of impeachment, meaning the majority of the House of Representatives found the evidence sufficient and credible, and are voting to open a trial to further investigate the president. At this time, it is unclear when the House will hold this vote for Trump. The procedure then moves to the Senate where a trial is held to determine if the president committed any crimes. The Chief of Justice oversees the trial, while appointed members of the House present any evidence or credible material regarding the president’s alleged crimes. During the trial, the accused president has a right to a council of representatives. At the trial’s conclusion, the Senators reconvene and vote on whether the president is innocent or guilty of the articles of impeachment. Conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds vote. As Republicans currently make up the majority of the Senate, Democrats, who hold 47 seats, would need 20 Republican senators to agree on the impeachment charges.

If convicted, Trump would immediately be removed from office, and Vice President Pence would be the acting president. In this hypothetical scenario, Trump would not suffer any legal penalties, just political ones. As of now, the future of Trump’s impeachment is ambiguous. The president has strong support from many of his Republican allies in the Senate, but Democrats are persistent in uncovering any alleged wrong-doings. One thing is certain. However the trial is ruled, this period of politics will have serious implications for the rest of this presidential term and even on the 2020 elections.