Articles of impeachment have been introduced against Donald Trump. Here’s what that means.
On Wednesday, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) jointly submitted articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. The pair first announced their intention to draft articles of impeachment at a joint press conference in June; by the time Sherman introduced the measure on the House floor Wednesday, Green was the only co-sponsor on the measure.
In a statement, Sherman said the rationale behind the filing was Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice in his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
“Recent disclosures by Donald Trump Jr. indicate that Trump’s campaign was eager to receive assistance from Russia,” Sherman said. “It now seems likely that the president had something to hide when he tried to curtail the investigation of national security advisor Michael Flynn and the wider Russian probe. I believe his conversations with, and subsequent firing of, FBI Director James Comey constitute obstruction of justice.”
What, exactly, is an article of impeachment? Will it do anything to actually push Trump out of office?
What is an article of impeachment?
According to the Law Dictionary, an article of impeachment is “a formal written allegation of the causes for impeachment,” similar to an indictment in a common criminal case. It is the first formal legislative move taken to remove a sitting president from office.
The U.S. Constitution allows articles of impeachment to be filed in the case of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” While Trump cannot be impeached for “lack of impulse control, accompanied by a refusal to have his staff control his impulses” — as noted in Sherman’s statement — the obstruction of justice of which Trump is accused likely constitutes a “high crime,” which is an impeachable offense.
The detail committee at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 originally listed “treason, bribery and corruption” as grounds for impeachment, but later removed “corruption” before settling on “high crimes and misdemeanors,” according to the Heritage Foundation.
What happens now?
As described by the New York Times, the House of Representatives first has to vote on one or more articles of impeachment. A majority vote on at least one of the charges means the president has been impeached, “which essentially means being indicted,” Times writer Charlie Savage explained.
Step two requires a Senate trial overseen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the New York Times noted. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict before a sitting president can be removed, at which point the vice president becomes president and takes the oath of office.
“I served with Mike Pence in Congress for 12 years and I disagree with him on just about everything,” Sherman said in his statement. “I never dreamed I would author a measure that would put him in the White House.”
How many presidents have actually been impeached?
That distinct dishonor belongs to just two men in U.S. history: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Both men were eventually acquitted by the Senate and remained in office to finish their respective terms. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 to avoid being impeached.
How likely is Sherman’s filing to result in Trump’s impeachment?
While we have no crystal ball with which to see the future, Mic can confidently say this article of impeachment has very little support, even among Democrats.
As Sherman was circulating his draft in June, Politico reported on a closed-door meeting with Democrats lead by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to discourage others from talking publicly about impeaching the president.
“It’s a big deal to talk about impeachment,” Pelosi told her colleagues, according to Politico. “I think he’s going to self-impeach.”
Moreover, impeaching Trump now would require Republicans to vote against their own party. Impeachment requires majority votes in the House and Senate, both of which are currently controlled by Republicans.
Still, there may be a glimmer of hope for Sherman and his article of impeachment — according to some experts, it appears Trump has done enough to at least give the appearance of wrongdoing.
“Impeachment is not purely a legal issue,” Elaine Kamarck, a former Clinton administration official who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told the New York Times in June. “It’s a legal and political issue, and the politics here haven’t gotten to the point of impeachment even though it looks obvious there are several legal cases that can be built.”