Trump impeachment hearings: Here’s how the process works originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
While the process has long been discussed for Trump, Democrats’ efforts have gained traction in recent weeks following a whistleblower complaint about a controversial call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was revealed that critics say includes a quid pro quo for political gain.
Since taking control of the House in 2018, Democratic leadership has been wary to broach the subject of impeachment, even after the Mueller report was issued, which did not clear the president of obstruction of justice. But the Ukraine call and its fallout have changed that calculus.
Trump has called the inquiry the continuation of a “witch hunt” that has dogged his presidency and Republicans members of Congress have attacked the process as a sham that disregards the president’s due process rights and impedes his ability to conduct foreign policy.
But what is the impeachment process and what does it mean for Trump and the country?
The presidential impeachment process
An impeachment proceeding is the formal process by which a sitting president of the United States may be accused of wrongdoing. It is a political process and not a criminal process.
The articles of impeachment are the list of charges drafted against the president. The vice president and all civil officers of the U.S. can also face impeachment.
The process begins in the House of Representatives, where any member may make a suggestion to launch an impeachment proceeding. It is then up to the speaker of the House, as leader of the majority party, to determine whether or not to proceed with an inquiry into the alleged wrongdoing.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formal opening of an impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24, citing what she called Trump’s “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections” and the full House voted on Oct. 31 to authorize the inquiry.
In Trump’s case, the House Intelligence Committee was tasked with the investigation and the matter was then turned over to the Judiciary Committee, which drafted two articles of impeachment — for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House was set to vote on the articles on Dec. 18. The process is dictated entirely by the ruling party.
A simple majority of the members of the committee would have to vote in favor of approving an article or articles of impeachment in order to proceed to a vote by the full House. The House Judiciary Committee currently consists of 24 Democrats and 17 Republicans; 21 votes in favor would be necessary.
Each article of impeachment that is passed by a simple majority vote in committee would then be voted on by the full House of Representatives. If any of those articles gets a simple majority vote, which is 50% plus one more vote (218), then the president would be impeached.
Justification for impeachment
When it comes to impeachment, the Constitution lists “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” as justification for the proceedings, but the vagueness of the third option has caused problems in the past.
“It was a central issue with Andrew Johnson, and there was a question during Clinton’s proceedings about whether his lie was a ‘low’ crime or a ‘high’ crime,” Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina who authored a book on the impeachment process, told ABC News.