The overall impeachment process laid out in the Constitution is relatively simple: A President commits “high Crime or Misdemeanor,” the House votes to impeach and the Senate conducts a trial.
Those overall contours are constant. But there’s no such thing as a routine impeachment.
The one President Trump faces now, after inciting a riotous mob to attack the Capitol, is unprecedented in all sorts of ways, which means the process will feel entirely new and different from the one we saw in late 2019 around the Ukraine investigation.
Specifically, this House impeachment vote is likely to be done this week, and the Senate trial will occur after Trump leaves office.
Here are some other key differences:
What Trump is accused of doing: There was a lot of debate during Trump’s first impeachment and trial about whether the pressure he exerted on the President of Ukraine amounted to “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” or simply a set of policies. This time, while there’s an argument he committed treason, Democrats in the House have alleged Trump “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States.”
The Article argues that Trump incited his supporters by repeatedly denying the election results in the lead-up to the counting of the electoral votes, that he pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” additional votes for him, and in doing so he “gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government,” “threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government.” Read the entire thing here. It’s short.
The House’s timeline: Getting from Trump’s misdeed to impeachment proceedings in the House took 86 days in 2019. It’s going to take just a week in 2021. The House can essentially impeach at will. While there are precedents in place around instigating the impeachment process and utilizing House committees to investigate whether impeachable offenses occurred, none of that is necessarily required. And Democrats, moving quickly, aren’t going to burden themselves by dragging this out.
And why bother with an investigation when this time Trump did it on TV? In that first effort, the details of Trump’s pressure on Ukraine leaked out over the course of weeks and built into Democratic support to launch and conduct an investigation and, ultimately, to impeach him.
With Trump’s time in office set to expire at noon on Jan. 20, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also gave Trump and Vice President Mike Pence the option of avoiding impeachment if either Trump resigned or Pence mobilized the Cabinet to use the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
When those two offramps were ignored, Democrats in the House moved quickly toward impeachment and the first post-presidential impeachment trial in US history.
Impeaching Trump in the House requires only a simple majority and Democrats hope to gain at least some support from Republicans.
Read the full story here.