The ‘I’ word
As wild and wacky as the 2020 presidential campaign already is, just imagine throwing a presidential impeachment trial into the middle of it.
As it turns out, this may actually happen. After months upon months of investigations into the 2016 campaign actions of President Donald Trump, many Democrats now believe they have enough fuel to impeach the president.
It would be the first impeachment of a president since the House of Representatives impeached former President Bill Clinton in late 1998.
Wednesday, Special counsel Robert Mueller stunned the nation with public statements about his investigation into Trump. He said that, bound by Justice Department policy, charging Trump with a crime was “not an option.”
“The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system,” Mueller said Wednesday.
Democrats, who now consist of a solid majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, quickly pounced.
“He’s asking us to do what he wasn’t allowed to – hold the president accountable,” U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., said in reacting to Mueller’s comments.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn, said, “I fully expect the responsible House committees to expedite their investigations and, as soon as possible, formally draft articles of impeachment.”
According to the Constitution, the power to impeach a president rests solely with the House. Because Democrats already control 235 of 435 seats in the House, they can impeach the president at their will, without a single Republican vote.
However, House Democrats may not be going it alone. U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., is also pushing for action.
“The ball is in our court, Congress,” Amash tweeted on Wednesday.
What some fail to realize, however, is that impeachment — in and of itself — does not remove a president from office. Once the House votes to proceed with impeachment, the matter then goes to the U.S. Senate. Members of the Senate then fill a role similar to that of a jury in a criminal trial. Selected House members, usually known as managers during impeachment, act as prosecutors.
The threshold for a conviction of the president during impeachment is quite high, as two-thirds of the members of the Senate must vote to remove the president. This obviously did not occur when Clinton was impeached.
Because Democrats only control 47 seats in the Senate, they would need to convince at least 20 Republican senators to convict Trump to remove him from office. The evidence against Trump would have to be overwhelming for this to occur.
We are not sure if Democrats will ultimately impeach Trump, but they move increasingly in that direction by the day.
For his part, Trump remained defiant in his Wednesday tweet on the matter: “Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.”
Buckle up, America.