Impeachment has been at the forefront of cable TV rotation and newspaper headlines since House Majority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, announced there would be a formal investigation into potential impeachable offences by the President and the Trump Administration.
Previous to the Oct. 31 vote to formally launch into an official impeachment inquiry — which fell strongly along party lines — there had been a preliminary investigation to determine if there were questionable actions committed and sufficient evidence to require such procedure.
Investigators within the House of Representatives have been digging deeper into the facts of the phone conversation with Mr. Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine. The element in question regarding this call was the suggestion of a quid pro quo between information about one of Trump’s political rivals and military funding for Ukraine.
Knowledge of this phone conversation was made public after an anonymous whistle blower reported their concern in a letter sent to Chairman Richard Burr and Chairman Adam Schiff. In this letter it was listed that many U.S. officials had knowledge of this call, one that the author believed to present a risk to national security.
Prior to the vote, The White House and Republican lawmakers had cited that due to a lack of an official status on the inquiry, there was not a legal mandate to comply with subpoenas and requests to testify.
However, the vote to officialize the inquiry did not change the opinions of many GOP members, citing unfairness towards the president in the set of rules established guiding the procedure.
As new evidence has emerged and other witnesses to the phone call testified, several members of congress who had previously been publicly undecided on the matter have came out in support of an impeachment trial.
House Speaker Pelosi has been cognizant on the historical importance, reminding us that only two U.S. Presidents have been formally impeached, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, Nixon was subject to an inquiry but resigned before articles were voted upon. Pelosi is quoted by NPR saying, “this is a solemn occasion,” and “the times have found every one of us in this room.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has remained unshaken by the formalization of the inquiry and during a floor speech questioned the legitimacy of the process.
The confirmation vote to continue with the impeachment inquiry has done little to change course of what was already occurring, gathering information and questioning witnesses about the content of the July phone call, as well as potential other instances. It simply formalized the investigation.
The House committees tasked with the investigation have called upon many federal officers and Trump Administration officials to testify about their knowledge of the call. The President has allegedly asked those involved in his administration not to testify, this request however has only blocked a small number from speaking to congress.
As there has only been three impeachment inquires in the 243 years the United States has existed, there is little precedent to guide what happens next. Formally, the House of Representatives will need to vote to confirm Articles of Impeachment to move the process forward.
The Senate would then take control of the situation, using evidence gathered by the House inquiry to hold a trial overseen by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. This would proceed similar to a court case, with prosecutors and defense lawyers presenting a case before the “jury” of 100 senators.
It was once speculated whether or not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would hold the hearing if presented with articles of impeachment. He has since publicly confirmed that he would indeed convene a trial as designated by the constitution.
The world will be watching what is to occur in the coming weeks, in the event that Trump is removed from office, he will be the first in American history to have such action against him. If not, he will be simply added to the list of Presidents in question during their time in the Oval Office. Either way, these are historic times, echoing what Speaker Pelosi said, they should be treated as such.