On December 18th, 2019, President Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives. This is only the third time in the history of the United States that a president has been impeached; the previous two being Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the “sole power of impeachment” (Article I, Section 2). The House serves as the Grand Jury during an impeachment and brings charges against officers suspected of “Treason, Bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” (Article II, Section 4). So in late 2019, The House passed two articles of impeachment on charges of Abuse of Power, and Obstruction of Congress.
These charges stem from Donald Trump allegedly urging the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. This is problematic because Joe Biden is running to be the Democratic Nominee for the 2020 Presidential Race and some people believe Trump is using foreign interference to dig up dirt on his political opponents for the upcoming election. In June of 2019, it was reported that Trump had a phone call with the Ukrainian President and during this phone call, Trump raised the concern of possible corruption involving Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian Natural Gas company called Burisma Holding from the Spring of 2014 and then left the board in the spring of 2019 as reported by Business Insider. Burisma Holding was at some point during this time being investigated by Ukraine’s lead prosecutor Viktor Shokin. In 2016, Joe Biden travelled to Ukraine and said the the US would withhold one billion dollars in loan guarantees to the country unless Ukraine removed Viktor Shokin from the job. This was because Shokin was widely believed to be ignoring rampant corruption in Ukraine, reports CNN. Trump openly believes that some type of nefarious activity was going on in this ordeal.
In August of 2019, a whistleblower in the Intelligence Community filed a complaint about communications between Trump and a foreign leader. This complaint was later reported by the New York Times to be about President Trump’s phone call in June with Ukraine’s president, Volodymer Zelensky. The complaint said that Trump repeatedly urged Zelensky to work with Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to investigate the Bidens. This is where the first charge, Abuse of Power, comes into play. Trump was accused of using the power of his office to pressure a foreign government to investigate a political opponent by withholding hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid until an investigation was conducted.
The second charge, Obstruction of Congress, comes from Trump’s lack of cooperation with the congressional inquiry in the House of Representatives. ABC News reports that Trump ignored multiple subpoenas and ordered his aides to do so as well because he believed that the Constitution gave the Executive Branch expansive authority and privilege. He also attempted to withhold certain documents from Congress in what Democrats say was an attempted cover up. The impeachment process was a little rushed because Democrats did not want Trump to run out the clock by forcing them into court fights that would push the impeachment process to most likely beyond the 2020 Election. The democrat’s impeachment case found momentum when Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, delivered “bombshell” evidence that blew holes in Trump’s defense during the impeachment inquiry. In his testimony, Sondland asserted that Rudy Giuliani, on behalf of Trump, “demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 Election/DNC server and Burisma” (The Guardian).
The two articles of impeachment were presented to the House of Representatives and were approved. It was an historic vote but did not quite have the impact on Trump that Democrats hoped. One issue with the impeachment was that it was not a bipartisan vote. Every Republican in the House voted against the articles while almost every Democrat voted for them. There were actually two Democrats who voted against the articles as well as another one who chose to not vote and just be present. It was the first fully partisan impeachment of a president where a member of their own party did not vote against them. This was the main criticism of the impeachment because many believed that to remove a president from office, it had to be agreed on unanimously, or at least by a bipartisan majority. The Democrats won the House of Representatives in the last election so while it was possible to approve the articles of impeachment in the House, the real test would be if the Democrats could win the Senate trial in the Republican controlled Senate.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Majority Leader, took the articles of impeachment over to the Senate on January 16th, 2020. The trial started the next day. The trial saw no witnesses and no documents were subpoenaed because Republican senators rejected all attempts to introduce subpoenas while they were arranging trial procedures. To remove Trump from office, the Senate needed 67 votes for one of the articles. The charge of Abuse of Power had 48 votes for and 52 against. The charge of Obstruction of Congress had 47 votes for and 53 votes against. Republican Mitt Romney was the only Republican who flipped and voted for Abuse of Power, becoming the first Senator to ever vote against his own party in an impeachment trial.
Donald Trump is now acquitted on both charges and the whole process seemed to have very little effect on his 2020 Presidential Campaign. Immediately after the trial, Trump fired two officials who testified against him. He has since used his acquittal to launch his campaign, and he held a rally in New Hampshire. Democrats are not satisfied but are now looking forward to the Democratic primaries to find a Democratic Nominee for the upcoming presidential election where they will have another chance to remove Donald Trump from office.