What’s Going On With Impeachment?


Image by Daneen Khan

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has informed the public that a formal impeachment inquiry is filed over President Trump.

Impeachment has been discussed before, but for House Democrats, the final straw was President Trump discussing Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, with the Ukrainian President. It appears that Mr. Trump wanted the Ukrainians to investigate into Biden’s and his son, Hunter’s, past dealings in the country. Mr. Biden is a potential political opponent in the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

Impeachment has only happened twice in US History, to Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Nixon was going to be impeached, but he resigned from office.

You may have heard, seen, or read news from other sources discussing the impeachment inquiry. However, there were probably some terms that confused you or you didn’t recognize. Here, we have placed some of the some of the most common terms circling around impeachment and a short summary of what they all mean, so you know what’s going on when you hear/see/read other things about this event!

Impeachment Inquiry: The Constitution states that a president may be impeached if they commit “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” If a member of the House of Representatives believes that an officer (i.e. the president or another federal official) has done one of these things, they can place an impeachment inquiry against said officer. This opens investigation, and a trial is held.

Impeachment: The exact definition of impeachment (according to Oxford Dictionaries) is “A charge of misconduct made against the holder of a public office.” This is when what has previously been an impeachment inquiry switches over to an impeachment after investigation has been completed and enough evidence has been found supporting the charges. Then, the House Judiciary Committee will begin writing articles of impeachment, noting the change from an inquiry. 

Whistleblower Complaint: In this case, a whistleblower can be any federal government employee. According to the Government Accountability Project, which is a non-profit organization that advocates for whistleblowers, if this person has “evidence of illegality, gross waste or fraud, mismanagement, abuse of power, general wrongdoing, or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety,” they may disclose this information to an authority in their agency. If the whistleblower complaint is accurate and concerning, the Director of National Intelligence will inform their committee within a week, eventually leading it to Congress. The lead up to the current impeachment inquiry went a little differently: though the anonymous whistleblower followed the correct procedures, it took a little longer because the concerns involved the president rather than a smaller leader. 

To get some more background on this topic, we talked to one of our AP Human Geography teachers, Mr. Nesbitt. Here were our questions and some answers: 

GE: So what are some of the basics of impeachment? What does the process look like? 

JN: Impeachment is a political trial raised in the house of representatives and usually has hearings. Once the house has decided to move forward with impeachment, they will then vote for impeachment, where there will be a trial in the Senate. If the Senate votes for impeachment, then the president will be impeached. 

GE: What’s the difference between an impeachment and an impeachment inquiry? 

JN: Impeachment inquiry is an investigation to determine whether or not impeachment will occur, while impeachment is the actual process of removal. 

GE: We know that impeachments have occurred before with President Clinton, Johnson, and Nixon. Were any of them actually removed from office? 

JN: No president in the history of the United States has been removed by impeachment. President Nixon resigned before he was removed by office, while Johnson and Clinton went through the impeachment inquiry but didn’t actually get impeached. 

GE: How did the impeachment impact their presidency? 

JN: For Nixon, it ended it and for Johnson he was incapable of doing anything. He didn’t have political power anymore, and for Clinton, he was in his second term so he wasn’t going to be president anymore. 

GE: Are their any obvious benefits and perils of impeachment (and inquiry) to Congress? 

JN: For congress, the perils and benefits are entirely political. Perils for congress is whatever party is in power for impeachment hearings lose support from the public. Benefits are that you have a political party that holds the trust of the public. 

For more information, check out the following news articles:

NBC News

The Washington Post

CBS News