Okay, So What Exactly Is the Impeachment Process?

Donald Trump’s impeachment has been fantasized about for years. But much like any time a fantasy comes to reality — scoring a dream job,  accepting a proposal, finishing a weeks-long “Game of Thrones” binge — the moment is often followed by an urgent sense of: WTF happens next?! 

All in favor of Dua Lipa releasing a remix of ‘New Rules,’ but just about the rules of impeachment, say I. Until then, you have me. Let’s run this down. 

For starters, the final straw on impeachment came after the President’s phone-a-friend moment with the Ukrainian President, who FYI became President after starring in a TV show where a celebrity becomes President. I guess they had a lot to catch up on.

And no, they didn’t talk about the differences between craft services in the U.S. and Ukraine. Instead, Trump admitted to trying to influence Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden at the same time he had frozen US military aid to Ukraine, which the country relies upon given a very recent history of Russian aggression. The thing is, you’re REALLY not supposed to leverage national security resources to extort another nation into digging up dirt on your political opponents. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment “inquiry” following Trump’s own admission he spoke to Zelensky about the Bidens. The release of a rough transcript of the call and a subsequent whistleblower complaint alleging that the White House attempted to conceal records of the call convinced even more Democrats that impeachment is the only reasonable response.

For what it’s worth, this is pretty historic — impeachment has only happened twice in the U.S., with past Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon would be on the list but he upped the game by resigning before the impeachment could happen. 

If you’re sitting there and you’re like, “F*CK YES, IMPEACHMENT!” but also at the same time want to say, “Siri, what exactly is impeachment?” it’s okay, we got you. Not everyone knows exactly what it is and the steps required for it because luckily, we haven’t had to do it a lot.

Impeachment is a process rather than a singular act. So it’s not like unmatching with that sketchy dude on Hinge, but rather showing your friends his profile that says “his ideal first date is hiking” and letting them deliberate. That’s exactly what will happen now that Democrats in the House of Representatives have largely to get this show on the road.

Lawmakers pursue impeachment if they believe a president or federal official has committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” which if you saw the “rough transcript” of the call made by Trump and the even more damning whistleblower complaint on the matter…  you can connect the dots on that. Lawmakers in favor of impeachment do not have to prove a crime was committed in order to justify an official condemnation of misconduct or even removal — the idea is that the office of the president is sacred, and misdeeds that fall short of criminal behavior still disqualify someone from serving as president. 

However, it’s worth noting that there is broad consensus that President Trump did commit a crime by soliciting campaign assistance from a foreign government. 

If you’re also scratching your head and wondering, “haven’t we been talking about impeaching him since Meghan Trainor was relevant?” you’re correct. However, this is the first time the actual steps to investigate Trump’s misbehavior are formally taken as part of an “impeachment inquiry.” After the Mueller Report was released, everyone was divided on whether to start the impeachment process — mainly Nancy Pelosi and other veteran Democrats concerned about the political consequences with the upcoming 2020 election. 

What Happens Next? 

In the coming weeks, the House will determine whether to formally impeach the president, then the Senate holds a trial to consider his or her removal. (It should be known that both Johnson and Clinton were impeached, but acquitted in the Senate.) After that trial, two-thirds of Senators must vote in favor of removing the president.

First, Nancy Pelosi will direct six committee chairs already investigating Trump’s sketchy moves detailed in the Russia investigation and attempts to profit off the presidency to consider these new impeachable offenses as well. These committees will then bring their findings to the House Judiciary Committee, which will vote to determine if articles of impeachment should go to the full House of Representatives. Translation: Your school’s social committee broke up into six different groups to look at a venue for a school dance— they take those findings to the group and they decide if it’s worth bringing it to the kind of sad teacher who runs the social committee or not.  

If it seems worthwhile, and the majority votes in favor – the President is then impeached. This is where it gets interesting because he or she then has a choice: be impeached and fight for your office or just resign. Like we mentioned earlier, Clinton and Johnson fought against impeachment and won — but Nixon just resigned cause he knew he wouldn’t be getting the support from the Republican Party. 

If he chooses to fight? The trail goes to Senate where basically the House is the prosecutor, the President is the defense and the Senate is the jury.  And unfortunately, the Senate has a Republican majority — so 20 Republicans will have to turn on him.

Trump loves to be best, so maybe he’ll be the best at impeachment and get everyone to unanimously vote him out.

Or, he can just resign.

Or, nothing really changes but we can laugh at him for being impeached while donating to the level-headed candidate of our choosing for 2020. The Hunger Games!!  

Want more news like this? Subscribe to the Betches Sup newsletter, the daily email that explains the news like you’re the funniest friend in the group chat. We tell you everything you need to know, and nothing you don’t.

Danny Murphy
Danny Murphy
Danny Murphy is a comedian and writer who lives, laughs, and gets his credit card declined in New York. His writing appears in Glamour, Marie Claire & Cosmopolitan and he performs standup wherever people will let him shout at them.