Impeachment doesn't mean what we think, least of all for Donald Trump 4 years ago

Impeachment doesn't mean what we think, least of all for Donald Trump

Over the past few months, weeks, days, hours and practically minutes, we've seen countless headlines promising us that President Trump is getting closer and closer to being impeached.

However, the impeachment process isn't some magical re-do button that will reverse the last five months of his Presidency term and allow America to start anew, heading off to get a new hair-do in the aftermath of a particularly troublesome break-up.

Advertisement

Technically, impeachment can only be levelled against high ranking government officials because it requires (A) the overturning of the normal Constitutional procedures that apply to those in high positions, and (B) it usually requires the supermajority vote to be approved, and then (C) a two-thirds majority vote of Senate is required for the impeached to be found guilty and removed from their position.

The impeachment process also can't begin while the President isn't currently on American soil, and Trump has just begun his first foreign trip as leader, spending the next eight days in the Middle East and Europe.

This has only happened to two Presidents in the past, once to President Andrew Johnson in 1868, when he attempted to replace the Secretary Of War despite the law not allowing him to do so, but Johnson was eventually found innocent.

It would be 131 years before a President would be impeached again, when Bill Clinton was accused of perjury involving a lawsuit against him by Monica Lewinsky, and he too was acquitted and served out the remainder of his term in office.

Contrary to popular belief, Richard Nixon was never actually impeached, as he resigned from office before the Watergate scandal built up enough evidence to bring an impeachment case against him.

So even in the face of fellow Republicans predicting that he will be impeached before long, and in the last 24 hours there have been stories involving him informing the Russian officials that he removed the head of the FBI to relieve the pressure from the Russian investigation, as well as his own son-in-law being potentially front-and-centre in the Russian/Election ties, there has never been a President removed from their position via the impeachment process.

Advertisement

And even if an impeachment case is successfully brought against Trump, that guilty verdict requires the majority of the House and the Senate, and the Republicans currently enjoy control of both houses. Would they damage their own party in such a way? It is technically possible (but extremely unlikely), especially since Trump would just be replaced.

To everyone who thinks that this would be Hilary Clinton's opportunity to just swoop in, that is painfully far from reality, which is where we must bring up Vice President Mike Pence.

It would be extremely unlikely (but not technically impossible) that Pence would be impeached right alongside Trump, and if Trump was impeached, and then found guilty, and then removed from office, Pence would be immediately sworn in.

Which is looking immediately likely, as this week Pence filed paperwork to launch his own political action committee (commonly known as PACs in the States), the first time a sitting Vice President has ever established an independent political arm.

Advertisement

However, unlike Gerald Ford, who replaced Nixon, Pence would forever be linked to Trump, regardless of whether he is innocent of any potential collusion or not.

The way around this, and something that is looking like an increasingly likely option, is if the 25th Amendment is put into action.

This is essentially the political version of a "palace coup", and this could only happen if Pence were to declare that Trump was “unable to discharge” the duties of his office and a majority of Trump’s Cabinet concurred.

Advertisement


With every day bringing forth a new controversy against Trump, this would allow the Republican party to save face, basically showing their power in removing Trump from office themselves, and replacing him with the generally more popular option of President Pence, who would then not be negatively associated with Trump during his own tenure.

Which is not to say the mass majority are big lovers of Pence, who has publicly spoken about being anti-abortion, anti-LGBT, anti-immigrants and pro-huge prison sentences for even the most insubstantial crimes, but it just goes to show that someone with these stances is still currently a preferred option to Trump.

Whether or not he can be untangled from the Trump / Flynn / Russia fiasco is another thing altogether, but for now, just keep in mind that impeachment isn't the immediate answer to removing Trump from power, merely a catalyst to moving in that general direction.