What would actually happen if Donald Trump got impeached?
Tuesday was quite the day for news. Vice President Mike Pence reminded everyone just how racially biased politics is by posing with other old white men on Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, a 95-year-old ex-Nazi guard was being deported back to Germany.
Former MI6 officer Christopher Steele won his case against Russian oligarchs who sued him for alleging they had links with Trump. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sat down with Judge Kavanaugh to speak about healthcare legislation, Democrat senator Elizabeth Warren gave an impassioned speech and unveiled a new anti-corruption bill and republican senator Rand Paul suggested the US speaks to Russia about the size of NATO.
But it was also a busy day for the big man himself, as his son would call him. President Donald Trump hit out against both former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, scrapped regulations on coal emissions, then celebrated at a huge rally in West Virginia.
However, in what is being called the “worst hour” of his entire presidency, a number of things happened yesterday which were woefully beyond Trump’s control. Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, was convicted on eight charges of bank and tax fraud. Then, minutes later, Trump’s ex-attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges including campaign finance violations.
Some of these charges include the payment of “hush money” to women Trump is thought to have engaged in extramarital affairs with. Crucially, this happened in the run-up to the presidential election and the payments were quite possibly to reduce the risk of damaging stories emerging. One of the payments was to ex-adult film star Stormy Daniels, who went public with her story despite apparent threats from the Trump administration.
In the hours since, Donald Trump’s twitter became oddly normal. There were no rants blaming the media, immigrants, “dems” or other scapegoats for the issues he’s facing. That is, until the inevitable happened.
Trump’s reputation, his marriage, and indeed his presidency hang in the balance. This has brought up the topic of impeachment - of Donald Trump being put on trial and potentially removed as president. So how would this actually happen?
Impeachment is only the “trial” part of this process but, needless to say, it’s still fairly rare. There have only ever been two impeached US presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, neither of whom were convicted by the Senate.
Impeachment is similar to the process of indictment through a grand jury. The constitution outlines a broad range of offences that can lead to impeachment: “Treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”. If it was determined that Trump had satisfied these conditions, the ensuing process would be a lot like a bill passing through legislature.
A majority in the House of Representatives - 218 out of 435 members - would need to approve articles of impeachment previously approved in committee. The process could take days or months. However, conviction necessitates a separate stage to impeachment and requires "the concurrence of two thirds of the members present”.
In both cases, the odds are in Trump’s favour. The House of Representatives is formed of 238 Republican seats and 193 Democrat seats. Meanwhile, the Senate is formed of 51 Republican seats and 49 Democrat seats, including two independents.
Richard Nixon would almost certainly have been impeached and convicted following the Watergate scandal. However, despite infamously insisting “I am not a crook”, the disgraced president resigned and handed the presidency over to Gerald Ford - therefore avoiding any chance of further action.
Legal scholars have highlighted that Trump was in direct violation of the foreign emoluments clause - in Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution - from the moment he was sworn in. This clause stipulates that: "No person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office or Title of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.”With a glittering array of global business interests, Trump would appear to be flouting this rule. However, having handed the reins over to his eldest son Donald Trump Jr, he has taken significant steps to avoid impeachment (on these grounds, at least).
Ultimately, it seems the chances of Trump being impeached are slim and the chances of him subsequently being removed from office are even slimmer. However, with a president as unpredictable as him, it's hard to be certain of anything. Though we can be certain of one thing. If Trump was impeached and convicted, the presidency would go to current vice president Mike Pence. Every cloud...
The Special Counsel Investigation, headed by former Director of the FBI Robert Mueller, has been looking into illegal interference with the 2016 election - and in many people's eyes, it has now been vindicated. However, only time will tell if this current political earthquake is big enough to unseat Mr Trump, or if he'll simply ride it out.
Featured illustration by Egarcigu