By: Priyam Nayak
October 12 2020
President Trump's impeachment was conducted in accordance with the legal framework laid down by the Constitution.
President Trump's impeachment was conducted in accordance with the legal framework laid down by the Constitution. In August 2019, reports surfaced about a whistleblower alleging that President Donald Trump may have abused his presidency. The whistleblower had claimed that during a phone call on July 25, 2019, Donald Trump had pressured Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch investigations against Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden for his involvement in the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and into the theory that Ukraine itself may have swayed American voters in favor of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections. Trump was also accused of unfairly withholding military aid to Ukraine as a means of pressuring the Ukrainian president. After the whistleblower’s complaint was made public, an impeachment inquiry was launched against Trump by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on September 24, 2019. This triggered a wave of criticism among Trump’s supporters with many alleging that the impeachment inquiry was illegitimate. Neal Katyal, a former Acting Solicitor General of the United States wrote in The Washington Post that Trump’s urging of the Ukrainian president to open an investigation into his political opponent in exchange for a White House meeting and foreign aid was in violation of Section 201(b)(2) of the criminal code, which clearly prohibits public officials from seeking, receiving, accepting or offering anything of “value.” He wrote, “Impeachment, fundamentally, isn’t about whether a president has failed to follow a criminal code, but about whether he has wielded the powers of his office for personal benefit.” Regarding the due process of impeachment, the United States Senate website says, ‘The United States Constitution provides that the House of Representatives "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment" and that "the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments…[but] no person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present. The president, vice president, and all civil officers of the United States are subject to impeachment.’ This congressional power is a fundamental component of the constitutional system of “checks and balances.” Through the impeachment process, Congress charges and then tries an official of the federal government for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The definition of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” was not specified in the Constitution and has long been subject to debate. In impeachment proceedings, the House of Representatives charges an official of the federal government by approving, by majority vote, articles of impeachment. A committee of representatives, called “managers,” acts as prosecutors before the Senate. The Senate sits as a High Court of Impeachment in which senators consider evidence, hear witnesses, and vote to acquit or convict the impeached official. In the case of presidential impeachment trials, the chief justice of the United States presides. The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict, and the penalty for an impeached official upon conviction is removal from office. The formal impeachment inquiry initiated by Pelosi lasted until November 2019 in which multiple witnesses testified and hours of hearings were felt. On December 18, 2019, the House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against Trump charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. On January 15, 2020, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to submit articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate for a trial and the resolution passed largely along party lines by 228 votes to 193. The U.S. government accountability office announced on January 16, 2020, that the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld the Ukraine Security Assistance. On January 19, 2020, the President’s legal team submitted a six-page response in which they stated ‘the articles of impeachment submitted by House Democrats were a "dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president.’ On February 6, 2020, the Senate, run by the president's fellow Republicans, voted to acquit him 52-48 on charges of abuse of power and 53-47 on obstruction of Congress thereby making him the first impeached president to seek a re-election. The timeline of events indicates that Trump’s impeachment process was conducted in accordance with the legal framework put forth by the Constitution and hence the claim is false.