Impeachment is an accusation, not a removal sentence

The U.S. was buzzing about the impeachment of President Donald Trump and the subsequent impeachment trial during the past few weeks. The rules and regulations behind congressional issues, such as impeachment, can be confusing and hard to follow. However, when examining how impeachments occur, what they mean becomes more clear.

On Dec. 18, 2019, the United States House of Representatives voted to adopt the Articles of Impeachment, accusing President Donald Trump
of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Photo courtesy of the House floorcast – U.S. House of Representatives.

“The thing that is usually most puzzling and that people don’t really understand that well about this part of the Constitution is that impeachment means an accusation. It does not mean removal from office,” UAA political science professor James Muller said.

Impeachment allows Congress the ability to potentially remove the president, vice president or another civil officer who has engaged in treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors from office, according to the U.S Constitution, Article II, Section 4.

Impeachment does not mean that an official has been removed from office. Rather, it is a statement of charges against an official. If they are convicted in the impeachment trial, then they are removed from office.

Graphic by Michaeline Collins.

Impeachable actions are not limited to criminal activities. There are three general categories that can constitute impeachment. They include abuse or improper use of power, behavior that is not compatible with the purpose or function of office and misusing office for personal gain or improper purpose, according to the Congressional Research Service’s 2015 Impeachment and Removal article.

The House of Representatives holds the sole power to impeach an official. If a majority vote is reached in the House, then that official is impeached and they move on to a trial with the Senate. A two-thirds majority vote is required from the Senate to convict the official on any charges. If convicted, they are removed from office and the Senate decides the official can be disqualified from holding office in the future, according to the Congressional Research Service’s Impeachment and Removal article.

The House has impeached a total of 20 people with 15 federal judges, one senator, one cabinet member and three presidents, eight of which were convicted by the Senate, according to the Congressional Research Service’s Impeachment and Removal article.

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“I was surprised when the House of Representatives decided to pursue the impeachment because the Senate has been highly in favor of the Trump administration,” freshmen political science major Teeana Nicholai said.

President Trump was impeached by the house for abusing his power and obstructing Congress. He was accused of power abuse by pressuring Ukraine to interfere with the 2020 presidential election.

President Trump solicited the Ukrainian government to publicly announce investigations into his running opponent, Vice President Joe Biden, according to the Proceedings of the United States Senate in the Impeachment Trial of President Donald John Trump Part I.

He was further accused of undermining the U.S. government’s attempts to investigate the foreign interference by defying a subpoena for documents. Ultimately, Trump was acquitted of both charges and remains in office, according to Peter Baker’s Feb. 6 New York Times article.

“It will be interesting to see how the Democratic candidates for the 2020 election use the Articles of Impeachment for their own personal gain. It will be equally interesting to see how the president will use the Senate’s decision to fuel his pursuit towards a second term,” Nicholai said. “Either way, this is a year for the history books.” For more information on impeachment and more on the most recent impeachment of President Trump, visit senate.gov.