House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last Tuesday (September 25, 2019) that the House of Representatives is set to move forward with an impeachment inquiry.
Speaker Pelosi stated that she made the decision to endorse the inquiry after conferring with key members of the Lower House, about the facts and events that led to Donald Trump’s admission that he asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and son. Such events included Trump’s suppression of a related whistleblower complaint filed by an intelligence officer.
What Does an Impeachment Inquiry Denote?
First off, the term impeachment does not necessarily mean that the subject of an impeachment inquiry will be removed from office once evidence of wrongdoing leads to a formal inquiry or investigation.
The results of the “impeachment inquiry” provides the basis on which the House of Representative will exercise the power to file formal charges against a president, vice president or civil official currently holding office, found in violation of his oath to perform duties by abusing the authority afforded by his position.
After the “impeachment inquiry” has been completed, the so-called “articles of impeachment” will be drafted.
What do the “Articles of Impeachment” Signify?
Once the House of Representative wraps up the inquiry procedure, all evidence of wrongdoings of the elected official under impeachment inquiry, will be used to draft a set of charges known as the “Articles of Impeachment.”
The term articles basically refer to the reasons why the official being impeached will undergo trial and thereafter receive judgment on whether he shall be removed from office or not; or if necessary, be convicted for unlawful acts committed.
What kind of charges will the “articles of impeachment” include?
The standard charges for which a President, Vice President or a civil official of the U.S. government can be impeached are generally termed as acts of “bribery, treason, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
All three types of charges denote actions that have been carried out through abuse of authority and misuse of office for reasons that may include financial gain, personal advancement or benefit, or any other act that is not compatible with sworn duties related to protecting the interests and national security of the country.
The draft of the “Articles of Impeachment” must first be voted upon by a majority of the members of the House Representatives. Once ratified by the lower house, a final set of charges or the official “Articles of Impeachment” will be passed on to the Congressional chamber of the U.S. Senators.
The Impeachment Trial Conducted in the Senate Chamber
After the “Articles of Impeachment” goes to the Senate Chamber, an impeachment trial will take place. The trial is the final process of the impeachment proceeding, to which appointed members of the House of Representatives will act as prosecutors during trial.
The office holder under impeachment is permitted to present his own defense against the charges through his own set of defense lawyers. Both the designated House of Representatives members and the impeachment defense panel, can present evidence, as well as call on witnesses to prove or disprove the charges, as the case may be.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides during the trial, to act accordingly in the manner prescribed by law regarding judicial hearings. The members of the U.S. Senate has no other role but to decide on whether the charges brought against the impeached person will require immediate removal from office, disqualification from holding another government position, and/or conviction.
The Senate will deliberate on such decisions by way of a closed-door session. After which, the final judgment will be voted upon by the full Senate body in an open-session. In the event that the Senate presents a judgment that includes conviction, at least two-thirds of the members of the Senate Chamber must have openly concurred with such judgment.
In the annals of American history, only U.S. presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton underwent impeachment trial. In both cases, the Senate had cast votes not to remove them from office or to convict them. Although President Richard Nixon underwent impeachment inquiry, he resigned from his position before the charges against him were addressed in an impeachment trial.