At around 1:30 this morning, Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America, was impeached in the House of Representatives. The media storm around this highly unusual event has become cacophonous. Let’s unpack what this means for Trump and his prospects in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
What is impeachment?
Impeachment is a process used in the USA, and many other countries, that enables a head of state to be removed from office if found guilty of a crime by the legislative body.
However, in the USA, impeachment is a two-stage process. The first is passing articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives, and the second is a trial in the Senate.
In Donald Trump’s case, he has only been impeached in the House of Representatives. His trial in the Senate yet to be given a date.
Since the US Constitution was enacted, only three Presidents have been impeached, with none being found guilty in the Senate.
This is mainly due to the supermajority needed in the Senate to remove a President from office, which is a majority that is at least two thirds of the total voters. Considering that Republicans currently hold 53 of the 100 seats available in the Senate. It is highly improbable that Trump will be convicted. Essentially, he has been charged with a crime, but most of the jury are his supporters.
What will happen to Trump now?
So, Trump will almost certainly remain in office until, and potentially after, the 2020 presidential election. However, this is by no means a meaningless gesture by the Democrats. Impeachment is an irreversible stain on an administration that fewer than 2% of Presidents have had to endure.
For a man highly concerned with his reputation, this has no doubt been a personally devastating blow for Donald Trump.
When it comes to the effect it will have on his re-election prospects, the outcome is far from certain. Trump and his fellow Republicans have been relentless in their condemnation of the entire impeachment process. They have disobeyed official subpoenas and generally refusing to cooperate.
Trump may actually benefit from the impeachment by harnessing his supporters’ outrage and portraying himself as a victim of Democrat, deep-state hit-job.
Republican v Democrat
For both sides of the aisle, the moment when the President was impeached for abuse of power was a bittersweet one. Republicans are angry over what they see as a sham proceeding, but are eager to use this argument to convey Trump into a second term. Democrats are pleased with what they see as a suitable punishment for Trump’s alleged crimes, but are well aware of their defendant’s imminent acquittal.
In fact, Nancy Pelosi, the most senior Democrat, has made the unprecedented move of not immediately committing to passing the articles of impeachment onto the Senate. This is a highly calculated tactic for which the motivations are unclear. If she intends to drag out the impeachment proceedings any further it will look like she is prolonging the inevitable, something that Trump will surely pounce on. The only thing that is certain after the vote is uncertainty, and it remains to see how Washington will adapt to these extraordinary proceedings.
Written by Max Ingleby