On Wednesday, Donald Trump became the third US President to be impeached. The first was Andrew Johnson in 1868 and then Bill Clinton in 1998. Former president Richard Nixon, who was involved in the Watergate scandal, resigned in 1974, before impeachment proceedings against him could begin. Significantly, no US president has been removed from office as a result of impeachment.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG! A terrible Thing. Read the Transcripts. This should never happen to another President again. Say a PRAYER!”
The House of Representatives (Lower House) has impeached Trump on two counts, both of which are related to the Ukraine scandal. The charges are: obstruction of Congress and pressuring Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation against Trump’s political rival and former vice-president Joe Biden.
Biden is the Democratic presidential candidate for the 2020 elections. Essentially, the case against Trump, as The New York Times has put it, is that he sought foreign interference using “hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars” to help him in the 2020 presidential elections and subsequently stopped the US Congress from performing its duty to check the executive branch.
According to the US Constitution, while the House of Representatives has “the sole power of impeachment”, the Senate (Upper House) has “the sole power to try all impeachments”.
The House of Representatives consists of 435 members, among which 235 are Democrats and 199 are Republicans. Given this composition, Trump’s impeachment was unsurprising and was passed with a vote of 230 against 197, almost all on party lines.
The real challenge lies ahead, when the Senate, which has a composition of 53 Republicans and 45 Democrats and two Independents, will vote following a trial, which will be overseen by the chief justice of the US Supreme Court, John Roberts.
The trial will consider all the evidence against Trump, after which there will be a vote to either acquit or convict him.
In order for Trump to be impeached, at least two-thirds of the Senate needs to find the president guilty. Which means that at least 67 members of the Senate (Senate has 100 members) will have to vote in favour of Trump’s impeachment. This seems unlikely, considering the Senate is dominated by Republicans, who could vote along party lines.
As of now, no date for the trial has been fixed and it is likely to happen next year.
An editorial published in the NYT said, “It’s a lot to ask of Republicans to insist on holding their own leader accountable, just as that was a lot to expect of Democrats during the Clinton impeachment inquiry. But while many Democrats then criticised President Bill Clinton and some voted to impeach him, Republican lawmakers would not breathe a word against Trump on Wednesday.”
Therefore, it is unlikely that Trump will be removed from office and is likely to be acquitted in the Senate, much like Johnson and Clinton in the past.
Is Trump likely to get re-elected?
On Wednesday, a US-based advisory and analytics firm reported that Trump’s latest approval ratings, taken between December 2-15, inched up to 45 per cent, marking this his third consecutive increase in approval ratings. On the other hand, support for his impeachment and removal has dropped by six percentage points, to 46 per cent. As many as 51 per cent oppose his impeachment and removal, up by five percentage points.
In fact, while Trump’s approval ratings have increased during the impeachment process, so has the Congress’ approval ratings, which are at 27 per cent, up from 18 per cent in early September, before the impeachment inquiry was announced.
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