Impeachment: Frequently Asked Questions
Note: These answers were most recently updated on January 10, 2020.
For only the fourth time in the nation’s history, Congress is determining whether it will impeach the president of the United States.
So what is impeachment, how does it work, and what’s going to happen?
There is no shortage of questions about impeachment and confusion about the process seems to have also enveloped Congress itself. But there’s an abundance of experts and historians on hand to help, including a few here at POGO. We’re using this FAQ to capture the many questions around impeachment, and provide the best answers we can find.
Here we go!
Republican Majority By A 51
Senators casting their vote on the motion to allow additional witnesses and evidence to be allowed in the impeachment trial Friday at the Capitol.
WASHINGTON—Senate Republicans rejected Democrats’ demands to call new witnesses and documents in President Trump’s impeachment trial, clearing the way for an acquittal on abuse of power and obstruction-of-Congress charges next week.
The 51-49 vote late Friday afternoon represented a major victory for Republican leadership, which has sought to complete the trial as quickly as possible and avoid testimony that could be politically damaging. Democrats had spent weeks calling for the Senate to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton and other officials, seeking testimony about Mr. Trump’s efforts to press Ukraine to launch investigations that could benefit him politically.
Two Republicans, Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, joined every Democrat to vote for the Senate to call in new witnesses. The GOP controls 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats.
Under a separate resolution that Republicans approved along party lines, the impeachment trial will break for the weekend and resume Monday at 11 a.m. EST for four hours of closing arguments. After those arguments, the trial will adjourn again, giving senators the opportunity to speak on the floor about the charges before returning for a vote on the articles of impeachment at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
House Republicans Try To Storm Closed
Republican lawmakers protested outside a secure room where a Defense Department official arrived to testify in the House’s impeachment inquiry.
“I’m gathered here with dozens of my congressional colleagues underground in the basement of the Capitol. Because if behind those doors they intend to overturn the results of an American presidential election, we want to know what’s going on.” “What is Adam Schiff trying to hide? I think that’s a question so many people have, so many of my colleagues have, so many people in the press should have, is through those hidden closed doors over there, Adam Schiff is trying to impeach a president of the United States.” “We’re going to go and see if we can get inside, so —” “Let’s do it.” “So let’s see if we get in.” “We’re going in.”
But some Republicans concede privately that it is difficult to mount an effective defense of Mr. Trump when much of the testimony and evidence available paints an unfavorable picture of the president, and there are few witnesses they could call who could credibly refute the accounts of a stream of administration officials who have testified.
The result has been a haphazard approach by Republicans defined mostly by public spectacles like Wednesday’s scene, which even some in the party said crossed the lines of propriety.
Mr. Graham later backtracked on Twitter, saying Republicans had been peaceful in their protest, and , “I understand their frustration and they have good reason to be upset.”
Freedom Caucus Members Have Taken Lead Role In Questioning Foreshadowing Public Hearings
Republicans have for weeks blasted the closed-door impeachment process, but transcripts released this week of private depositions show most GOP lawmakers on the three panels at the center of the probe have simply not shown up.
The low attendance for most committee Republicans paints a very different picture of a party that recently stormed the secure room where the depositions have been conducted, demanding to participate in the process. Republican questioning during these private interviews have been driven by a handful of President Donald Trump’s allies and GOP staff.
Conservative Republicans, many closely tied to Trump from the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, have led the GOP questioning, a preview of the coming tumultuous public impeachment process. What is unclear is what role, if any, other Republicans will play.
When they’ve asked questions during these depositions, the president’s allies have criticized the impeachment process, dived into witnesses’ timelines on the Ukraine scandal and resurfaced other controversies, like the so-called Steele dossier.
At least one of Trump’s GOP allies, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, could soon be rewarded with a seat on the Intelligence Committee, which is leading the inquiry. Jordan told Fox News on Tuesday the rumored move would be decided by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and that panel’s ranking member, California’s Devin Nunes.
“I walked right into that one,” Sondland said.
The Key Interrogators In The Trump Impeachment Inquiry
House intelligence committee members and two lawyers – a Democrat and a Republican – will question witnesses
Televised public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump start on Wednesday.
The live proceedings, which could easily draw tens of millions of viewers, come approximately six weeks after the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, the investigation into Trump’s dealings with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
In the closed-door testimony that followed, witnesses testified in front of several committees about Trump’s alleged attempts to strong-arm Ukraine into interfering with the 2020 presidential race by investigating his main political rival, Joe Biden.
Now some of those witnesses will present their testimony publicly and face grilling by both Democratic politicians seeking to prove Trump plotted a “quid pro quo” and aiming to thwart and delegitimize the inquiry.
Below is a guide to key House intelligence committee members and the two lawyers – one Democrat and one Republican – who will interrogate the witnesses.
Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Key Testimony Finally Begins Despite Republican Sit
Laura Cooper’s testimony for House Democrats underway after protest delayed her appearance by more than five hours
Thu 24 Oct 2019 01.37 BST First published on Wed 23 Oct 2019 14.04 BST
House Republicans brought their phones into the secure area of the Capitol where Laura Cooper was set to testify in the impeachment inquiry, marking a major breach of protocol.
NEWS: Source tells me that after House tried flooding the SCIF with non-committee members, “many brought their cell phones too into the classified area.”“Stand off in progress,” source adds.
A New York Times reporter argued that the Republican accusations of secrecy are actually a desperate ploy to buy time as the impeachment investigation more damaging accusations against Trump.
The process attacks are a time-buyer for Rs to see what else comes out, if/for how much longer they can defend Trump.
What Can Congress Do About Witnesses Who Wont Testify
Congress has several tools for compelling witnesses to appear.
One path is through the courts. Refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena can constitute contempt of Congress, which is a federal crime. Federal prosecutors can pursue these cases like any other crime. However, in recent decades the Justice Department has argued that federal prosecutors aren’t required to do so, and the department has refused to prosecute executive branch officials who defied Congress.
Notwithstanding the Justice Department’s dubious stance that it doesn’t have to enforce the contempt of Congress statute, congressional committees can and have gone directly to court to force compliance their subpoenas. One such case is ongoing: The House Judiciary Committee has sued former White House Counsel Donald McGahn to force him to testify. That case could have implications for subpoenas issued as part of the current impeachment inquiry. However, congressional Democrats have been unwilling to pursue litigation in the context of the current investigation, going so far as to pull the subpoena for former national security staffer Charles Kupperman after he filed a lawsuit seeking clarity over whether he had to testify. The decision to pull the subpoena will likely end the lawsuit.
House Republicans Shut Down Impeachment Interview
House Republicans who tried to storm the secure area in the Capitol where Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official on Ukraine, was testifying have effectively shut down the interview, according to a senior Democratic lawmaker.
The House claim that they have been excluded from the impeachment inquiry because interviews have been conducted behind closed doors.
But once again: these Republicans are not members of the three committees running the inquiry. All of the GOP lawmakers who sit on those panels have been allowed to hear the interviews, and the House parliamentarian has already ruled that any other member is not allowed to participate.
Is Due Process Required During The Senate Trial
Defendants in impeachment trials do not receive the same protections as those in criminal trials. Because the consequence is removal from office rather than imprisonment, and because the Constitution provides that “the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all impeachments,” courts would not have the authority to review or overturn an impeachment conviction. Senate rules do provide impeachment defendants with certain rights, including the right to be represented by counsel, to call witnesses, and to cross examine prosecution witnesses.
Why Hasnt The House Subpoenaed Several Key Potential Witnesses
Several notable potential witnesses have not been subpoenaed, including former national security adviser John Bolton and Trump himself. The main reason for this appears to be a desire for speed. Given the administration’s apparent unwillingness to change its uncooperative stance on subpoenas thus far, investigators may have concluded that more demands would slow the process without yielding new information. Another source of delay House investigators have sought to avoid is litigation over the subpoenas. The House withdrew a subpoena against former National Security Council staffer Kupperman to avoid a lawsuit he filed, and Bolton’s stated desire to go to court if subpoenaed led investigators to forgo subpoenaing him. Past instances in which Congress has had to allow the courts to determine whether an individual must testify or be held in civil contempt have taken years.
House Intelligence Committee Hearings
On November 6, 2019, Chairman Adam Schiff announced that the first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry would be held on November 13, beginning with Bill Taylor and George Kent. The announcement added that Marie Yovanovitch would testify in the second public hearing on November 15. The White House appointed new aides, including Pam Bondi and Tony Sayegh, to work on communications during the inquiry. House Republicans assigned Representative Jim Jordan to the House Intelligence Committee to participate in the hearings. Jordan replaced Representative Rick Crawford , who stepped down so Jordan could take his place.
The release of the Ukraine aid came two days after the House Intelligence Committee was notified of the whistleblower complaint and opened an investigation, and two days after three House committees publicly announced an investigation into Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine.
Mcconnell Predicts Senate Impeachment Trial ‘would Not Lead To A Removal’ If Held Today
Murkowski also benefits from not being up for re-election for three years and from the strong financial backing she has always received from Alaska Native corporations and interest groups, an influential Alaska constituency.
“These things give her the leeway to vote with her heart so often,” Chanda Meek, a professor of political science at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks who studies Alaska politics, told NBC News.
On the other hand, Murkowski’s political rivals point out that across her three Senate races , she has never won a majority of the vote — a fact they say signals that there will always be room for a more conservative candidate to mount a challenge when she is up for re-election.
But even those adversaries admit that the unique nature of Alaska politics is likely to enable Murkowski to follow the facts on impeachment — even if the Republican voters oppose it.
“When it comes to the rank and file, I believe strongly that impeachment is looked upon with great disdain and as a reflection of how the system is totally broken,” said Joe Miller, a conservative attorney who ran against Murkowski in and the . “Because she’s so clearly outside the Republican mainstream position is secure because the Republican Party here is just so broad.”
Murkowski has said that she wouldn’t support the Sen. Lindsey Graham’s resolution condemning the impeachment inquiry because “it’s not the Senate’s role to dictate to the House how to determine their own rules.”
What Was Trump Accused Of
The impeachment charges focused on Mr Trump’s request that Kyiv announce a corruption investigation into Joe Biden, a Democratic White House candidate, and his son Hunter Biden.
Mr Trump has argued that the younger Biden improperly held a board position with a Ukrainian natural gas firm while his father was US vice-president and in charge of American-Ukrainian relations.
Democrats accused Mr Trump of abusing his power by withholding $391m in security aid to prod Ukraine’s president into digging up dirt on the Bidens.
They also charged Mr Trump with obstruction of Congress after the White House blocked testimony and documents sought by the House impeachment investigators.
The impeachment inquiry stemmed from Mr Trump’s phone call on 25 July 2019 in which he asked Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to “do us a favour”.
Following a complaint from an anonymous government whistleblower, Democrats launched their investigation in September, compiling a 28,000-page report.
How Did President Trump React
Mr Trump, who is seeking a second four-year term in the 3 November election, always denied wrongdoing.
His re-election campaign said in a statement: “President Trump has been totally vindicated and it’s now time to get back to the business of the American people.
“The do-nothing Democrats know they can’t beat him, so they had to impeach him.” It said “this terrible ordeal” and “nonsense” was merely a Democratic campaign tactic.
The statement added: “This impeachment hoax will go down as the worst miscalculation in American political history.”
Mr Trump – whose personal approval rating with American voters hit a personal best of 49% this week, according to Gallup – tweeted that he would speak on Thursday about the case.
Trump Impeachment: Here’s How The Process Works
Trump became the first president impeached twice.
How the impeachment process works
Former President Donald Trump faces an unprecedented second impeachment trial this week. Adding to the historic nature of the proceeding is that he is no longer in office and the members of the Senate who will decide his fate are among the victims in the Capitol siege, which he is accused of instigating.
The House of Representatives voted 232-197 on Jan. 13 to impeach Trump for an unprecedented second time for his role in the Jan. 6 riot and breach of the Capitol, which occurred as a joint session of Congress was ratifying the election of President Biden.
The extraordinary step of a second impeachment, which charged Trump with incitement of insurrection, took place just days before Trump was set to leave office. Only two other presidents — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton — have been impeached and none have been convicted.
Unlike Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 , 10 members of the House GOP, including conference chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., voted for impeachment and denounced the president’s actions. Democratic House impeachment managers argued in a brief ahead of his trial, which starts in earnest Feb. 9, that Trump bore “unmistakable” responsibility for the siege and called it a “betrayal of historic proportions.”
“He summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue,” the managers wrote.
Trump Acquitted By Senate In Impeachment Trial
President Donald Trump has been found not guilty in his impeachment trial, ending a bid to remove him from office that bitterly divided the US.
The Senate, run by the president’s fellow Republicans, voted to acquit him 52-48 on charges of abuse of power and 53-47 on obstruction of Congress.
Democrats charged Mr Trump in December with pressuring Ukraine to smear a potential White House rival.
He will now become the first impeached president to seek re-election.
Impeachment allows Congress – the part of the US government that writes and brings in laws – to put presidents on trial.
It is a rare event and a political process, rather than a criminal one.
In its historic vote on Wednesday, the Senate decided not to remove America’s 45th president from office on charges arising from his dealings with Ukraine.
If convicted on either charge, Mr Trump would have had to turn over his office to Vice-President Mike Pence.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives approved the articles of impeachment on 18 December.
How Republicans Are Reacting To Developments In The Impeachment Inquiry
Republican Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy discussed the ongoing impeachment inquiry on Thursday.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
I want to bring in NPR political reporter Tim Mak, who is on Capitol Hill and has been with us this hour, if you heard that.
Tim, what did you hear there from Senator Cassidy in terms of the message that Republicans are crafting as this inquiry moves forward?
TIM MAK, BYLINE: A few things. On process, a lot of Republicans are saying that, hey, Democrats are filled with this hatred of the president, that this process is preordained. It doesn’t matter what the substance of the president’s behavior is; they want to remove him regardless. And on the substance of the allegations against the president, Republicans have been arguing, hey, the president may have done something wrong, but he didn’t do anything particular that – in particular that was criminal.
Now, Democrats have argued that, hey, we have kept an open mind this entire process. And if you talk to a lot of leaders in the Democratic Party and the House, they will say, look – we have not wanted an impeachment process. Over the last two years – or approximately two years – a lot of Democrats have not wanted to go down this road. It’s just that, they say, the president’s behavior warrants that kind of inquiry.
KELLY: All right. Thank you for watching them for us. NPR’s Tim Mak at the Capitol. Thank you, Tim.
MAK: Thanks a lot.
What Do The House Intelligence Committees Impeachment Reports Say
The House Intelligence Committee majority report on its impeachment inquiry, released December 3, is available . The report was prepared in consultation with the foreign affairs and oversight committees. The minority members of the committees had already issued a rebuttal on December 2. Committee staff presented their reports to the House Judiciary Committee at a on December 9.
The majority’s key factual findings are as follows:
The report is primarily based on witness testimony that is already public, as, according to the Intelligence Committee, “not a single document has been produced by the White House, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of State, the Department of Defense, or the Department of Energy in response to 71 specific, individualized requests or demands for records in their possession, custody, or control.” The committee further notes, “These agencies and offices also blocked many current and former officials from producing records directly to the Committees.”
Does Impeachment And Removal From Office Overturn An Election
No. The vice president, who ran on the same ticket as the president, assumes office if the president is impeached and removed from office.
The 1998 House Judiciary Committee supporting articles of impeachment for President Bill Clinton succinctly summarized the state of the law on this question:
One rhetorical device that has recently been employed by some who oppose the impeachment of President Clinton is that impeachment of the President will “overturn the election.” The suggestion is that the congressional majority is using impeachment for political reasons—to undo a presidential election in which their party did not succeed.The success of this rhetorical strategy rests wholly on the expectation that those to be persuaded by it will not read the Constitution. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified on February 10, 1967, states: “In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.” Since the vice presidential and presidential candidates run for office on the same ticket, impeachment of the President could not possibly result in a change of political party control in the Executive. Any assertion to the contrary is patently false.
Interestingly, when the Constitution was adopted, the president and vice president were elected separately, so there was a good chance that if the president were removed from office, his political rival—the vice president—would then take office.
First House Republican Backs Impeachment Inquiry
Donald TrumpKamala Harris should offer Vietnam ‘market economy’ statusSupporters at Alabama rally boo Trump after he tells them to get vaccinatedCNN posthumously airs final interview with late Rep. Paul Mitchell.
In a conference call with reporters, Amodei made clear he wouldn’t vote to impeach Trump, but he also expressed concern over the president’s dealings with Ukraine, adding that the House should “put it through the process and see what happens.”
“I’m a big fan of oversight, so let’s let the committees get to work and see where it goes,” he said, according to audio of the call released by The Nevada Independent.
“Using government agencies to, if it’s proven, to put your finger on the scale of an election, I don’t think that’s right,” Amodei added. “If it turns out that it’s something along those lines, then there’s a problem.”
He later issued a statement after The Independent’s piece was published, emphasizing he was not in favor of impeaching Trump but supportive of the investigative approach.
“In no way, shape, or form, did I indicate support for impeachment,” he said.
“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Trump said on the call, according to a memorandum. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.”
Impeachment Of Bill Clinton
|Impeachment of Bill Clinton|
|Floor proceedings of the U.S. Senate during the trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999, Chief Justice William Rehnquist presiding|
|Accused||Bill Clinton, President of the United States|
|Date||December 19, 1998 to February 12, 1999|
|Outcome||Acquitted by the U.S. Senate, remained in office|
|Charges||Perjury , obstruction of justice, abuse of power|
|Voting in the U.S. Senate|
|Accusation||Article I – perjury /grand jury|
|Votes in favor|
|Accusation||Article II – obstruction of justice|
|Votes in favor|
|This article is part of a series about|
The impeachment of Bill Clinton occurred when Bill Clinton, the president of the United States, was by the United States House of Representatives of the 105th United States Congress on December 19, 1998 for “high crimes and misdemeanors“. The House adopted two articles of impeachment against Clinton, with the specific charges against Clinton were lying under oath and obstruction of justice. Two other articles had been considered, but rejected by House vote.