President Donald Trump is impeached, but he’s still the president.
Contrary to sometimes popular opinion, “impeachment” doesn’t mean a U.S. president is automatically booted from the White House.
Articles of impeachment are closer to criminal charges, with a trial being held in the upper house.
On Thursday, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted on two articles of impeachment over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, with votes in favour of impeachment reaching the 216-vote majority needed.
If the house votes to impeach a president – which it just has – the trial moves to the Senate, with senators sitting as jurors. Only two U.S. presidents have been impeached in history: President Andrew Johnson in 1868, and Bill Clinton in 1998. In both cases, the presidents were acquitted by the Senate, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass.
Right now, the Senate is controlled by the Republican party, with 53 Republican senators, 45 Democratic senators, and two independents. The two-thirds majority means 67 of those Senators need to convict Trump, which would require a significant number of Republican senators to vote against their party leader.
If Trump is convicted, he’ll be removed from office. If not, he’ll be acquitted of the charges and remain president.
Trump already had an asterisk by his name for losing the popular vote.— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) December 19, 2019
He had an another asterisk by his name for being elected with the help of a foreign power.
Tonight, he added a 3rd asterisk, becoming the first president ever impeached in his first term. #TrumpImpeachment
We don’t yet know when the impeachment trial will begin in the Senate, but it’s likely to be early next year. The U.S. is staring down the barrel of a presidential election, with Trump campaigning to be voted in for a second term. Trump is likely to want to get on with the job quickly, as a Senate trial will likely clear his name. There are reports some Democrats want to hold back the impeachment articles from going to the Senate immediately for much the same reason.
Some of the big things that happen during the trial – such as calling witnesses or what kind of evidence can be submitted – will need to be decided on by the senators themselves. Once the trial is underway, senators will work six days per week until they’ve voted on both articles of impeachment.
All up, it’s unlikely Trump will be removed from office. There is very little to suggest Republicans are interested in pushing back against the president, even those who previously dragged him into dust during the 2016 election campaign.
However, it’s the highest power available to lawmakers in the checks and balances system of U.S. government. And it was Trump’s alleged “quid-pro-quo” of aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation of the son of Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden, that finally made the House Democrats use it.