Despite the Democrat victory in the House, impeaching Trump remains practically impossible. Here’s why it should be considered anyway.
At noon on January 3, the 116th Congress will sit. The Senate, its upper house, with two members from every state, will remain in Republican hands. But the House of Representatives, its lower house, with its seats – gerrymandering aside – allocated by population, has changed hands, and from January the Democrats will be the majority party.
What could this newly minted Democratic Party-controlled legislative body do? Just how hard could they make life for the president? And does it mean there is a possibility that he could now be impeached?
In order: lots; extremely; and – um, well, no, not really, but it’s complicated.
The short answer to the third question is simply no. Under the constitution, impeachment is a two-stage procedure. The first stage, which happens in the House, represents the formal leveling of an accusation – that is “impeachment”; but there is a second stage, where that accusation is tried, weighed and judged, and that takes place in the Senate.
The system is laid out in Article I of the US constitution, which states that the House of Representatives “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.” So far, so good. But that’s not as clear cut as it sounds, because it goes on to say that the Senate “shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.”
In practice, that means that the House must first pass an impeachment resolution. This is an official document containing one or more individual accusations of specific crimes, known as “articles of impeachment.”
Any member of the House can propose an impeachment resolution, but it will then be referred first to the House Judiciary Committee for review. If they pass it, it then goes to a full vote of the House. But the House passing articles of impeachment merely triggers the second stage. Impeachment is a form of official criminal accusation, and the House’s role has been compared to that of a criminal grand jury handing down an indictment.
In that sense, the second phase of impeachment is then like the convening of a giant criminal trial, presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, with members of the House Judiciary Committee acting as prosecutors, and the Senate acting as the jury.
It isn’t a criminal trial in the sense that it can level actual criminal charges, but if the Senate votes to confirm the impeachment then the president is removed from office. This is the difference between the House’s constitutional “power of impeachment” and the Senate’s constitutional “power to try all impeachments” – and the Republicans still control the Senate.
It’s even more unlikely than it sounds, in fact, because the constitution states that impeachment requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate to pass, so even if the Democrats had won every swing seat they lost on Tuesday they still wouldn’t have anywhere near the votes they need in the Senate. So: it’s a no-go.
…Mostly. While it …read more
Source:: New Statesman