Making History for the Wrong Reasons

How the Impeachment Process Actually Works


Greg Haessner

Activists surround the White House on Nov. 21.

First was Johnson, next was Clinton and now Trump. Though our country has initiated presidential impeachment proceedings fourteen times, according to the Washington Post, the process is still polarizing.

The impeachment process is not widely known. 

“[The] American people’s concept of justice has weakened in the sense that a lot of people from either party are still ignorant on the impeachment process,” sophomore Kevali Shah said. “How are we going to protect ourselves if we don’t know what’s going on?”

During an impeachment inquiry, the House of Representatives decides whether the president has upheld his oath to protect and defend the constitution. 

Vidya Achar

“[The House of Representatives] has to prove that the president or federal official has committed treason, primary bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors,” history teacher Ariana Rodriguez said.

The House subpoenas witnesses involved, which means that those chosen have no choice but to testify in the impeachment hearings. In the recent impeachment inquiry of President Trump, the House handed out subpoenas to Trump’s lawyer, various Ukraine ambassadors and foreign officials involved in the July 25th phone call to Ukraine. 

Trump was probed for allegedly asking the new Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, to conduct an investigation of his political opponent Joe Biden. The president was found guilty, sparking a debate on whether he invited a foreign power to tamper with the U.S. elections.

Once all the witnesses from the accusing side have testified, the president has the opportunity to present witnesses in his defense. President Trump declined this opportunity, saying that the process is invalid. The House of Representatives then drafts a list of charges against the president called the articles of impeachment, and members of the House vote on whether or not the president is guilty and if his crimes justify impeachment. This vote decides whether the president is impeached.

On Dec. 18, the House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, making Trump the third U.S. president to be impeached.

“Impeachment just means [Trump] loses his credibility. It doesn’t mean he’s not president anymore,” Trump protester Hecta Sosa said while standing outside the White House.

If a president is impeached, the process continues in the Senate, who will either punish or acquit him. For a president to be removed from office, two-thirds of the Senate have to vote in favor of removal. The president is then succeeded by the vice president.

People’s opinions on the ongoing impeachment process vary greatly. 

“Nothing should be changed about the process,” Trump protester Maxine Engler said from D.C. “I think every one is getting a fair chance to state how they feel.” 

On the other hand, Spanish teacher María Murillo, an immigrant, considers the U.S. impeachment process a better alternative than the Mexican system.

“There are some things I would change [about the system] but it’s a lot better than the country I’m from,” Murillo said. “Here, there is a system to impeach the president, but in México it’s just violence.” 

Others, like Shah, want the process to speed up.

“The process has to be a lot shorter,” Shah said. “Otherwise, [Trump’s] term will be over before he faces any consequences.”