If you’re like BuffLord95 who’s apolitical and only watches Singapore Social instead of House of Cards on Netflix, you’d have read about Trump’s impeachment this morning and then told your friends, “Eh, Trump kena fired liao, does that mean Michelle Obama is going to be the next President of, erm, North Korea ah?”
Well, for a start, Donald Trump isn’t “fired” yet, and most importantly, this sequence of events is more or less expected to happen if you’ve been reading The Washington Post instead of The Washing Post.
So, what’s this impeachment thingy you’ve been reading about, and why’s everyone talking about it?
Here’s everything about Donald Trump’s impeachment simplified for you so that you can sound smart during your conversation with your Tinder date.
The Basics: US Government System
Now, unlike Singapore, the US Government works a tad differently.
It comprises three main branches: Congress that creates laws, Executive Branch that implements and makes sure the laws are followed, and the Judicial Branch that kind of interprets the laws.
President Donald Trump is the head of the Executive Branch; however, his branch doesn’t create laws. Instead, he manages people who ensure the laws aren’t broken, like the FBI lah or the army lah or whatnot.
The reason for this system is to prevent an abuse of power: long, long time ago, the founders of US didn’t want one person to have all powers.
Now, Congressmen and Congresswomen are like MPs in Singapore: they’re voted by the people. Unlike Singapore whereby the ruling party has many seats and therefore can pass laws easily, it’s different in the US: two parties have been holding almost equal seats in Congress. They’re the Republican, which is Trump’s party, and the Democratic, which is Obama’s party.
The Congress comprises two “groups”: one’s called the Senate that comprises 100 seats and one’s called the House of Representatives that has 435 seats.
Both are equally important, so remember this and read on because it’ll come in handy later.
Currently, the Senate’s majority is the Republican (Trump) as they hold 53 seats. The House of Representatives’ majority is the Democratic (Obama) as they hold 233 seats.
For a law to be passed, it must be voted in the House of Representatives first: if a majority says it’s a goody law, then they’ll go to the Senate. And once again, if the Senate also says it’s a goody law as well, then it’ll be sent to the President.
The President, while being the last person to “approve” it, can refuse to sign and pass it, but if more than two-thirds of the entire Congress still thinks it’s a goody law, they can overwrite the President’s disapproval.
So as you can see, the Congress has one more important role: they’re there to keep a check and balance on the Executive Branch, to ensure that they won’t anyhowly do anything.
Now, moving on: so, what is impeachment?
Impeachment: “Firing” of a Federal Officer
Many of us would associate impeachment with president or head of state, but apparently it’s actually used for all high-ranking federal officials.
This includes those Congressmen and Congresswomen, and the Senators (people voted into Senate…like Obama before he was President).
Because they’re voted in, how can they be, erm, “fired”?
I mean, it’s like you, an employee, trying to fire your boss.
So, there’s a system in place: impeachment.
If an official, like the president, did something really bad and wrong, then people can start the impeachment process.
But here’s the thing: right or wrong is very subjective. Unless the official has done something that’s obviously criminal, like bribery or whatnot, the first process is to determine whether the thingy that the official has done is wrong.
Because believe it or not, every now and then, there would be someone who wants to impeach someone, but didn’t get past the stage of determining whether it’s really “wrong”.
In fact, people have been trying to impeach Trump since he became President: so many that there’s a Wikipedia page about it.
All have failed—in fact, less than a year after Trump became President, there was also a vote in the House to impeach him for allegedly “Associating the Presidency with White Nationalism, Neo-Nazism and Hatred” and “Inciting Hatred and Hostility” and it did not pass.
However, remember that that was before the 2018 Midterm elections; back then, the Republican had majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
How Impeachment Works
Now here’s what you need to know: for a President to be removed from office, there are many steps.
Firstly, a committee must determine the “wrongdoing”. As mentioned, that’s subjective so if it goes through (many impeachment efforts didn’t pass through this stage), then it’ll be voted in the House of Representatives.
At vote, they’ll prepare the “wrongdoings”, which are called Articles of Impeachment. Then if a majority (i.e. more than 50%) vote that the wrongdoings are, indeed, wrong, then that’s it: the President is considered impeached.
Which was what happened this morning.
But wait; so easy?
No, because impeachment isn’t removal. Yet.
Those wrongdoings would then be presented in a trial, and here’s when it gets a tad tricky: in the trial, which should be completely impartial, the Senators are the jurors, and for a President to be removed, there must be more than two-thirds of the Senators voting for that.
Yes, two-thirds. It’s no longer 50% at the trial.
Now, remember: at this moment, Trump’s party has 53 out of 100 seats.
But of course, you’d say: it’s supposed to be an impartial trial mah, so everyone should vote based solely on facts, right?
Well, go watch some House of Cards.
And if it’s so hard to impeach, with even The Washington Post saying that the chances of impeachment are low, then why still go through all the processes, when Trump’s term is going to end in less than a year if he loses the reelection?
Once again, please watch more House of Cards.
Connecting the Trump Dots
So, what did Trump do that warranted such an action?
To put it simply, Congress has approved some money to help a country, Ukraine. Apparently, Trump is accused of asking for favours before “releasing” the funds.
He wanted Ukraine to investigate former Vice-President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, who used to work in Ukraine. Apparently, Joe Biden and his son were accused of corruption over in Ukraine where Hunter worked as a board member of Ukraine’s largest gas-production company. The accusation was that a Ukraine prosecutor who might be prosecuting Hunter Biden was removed from office due to Joe Biden’s influence.
So, Trump is accused of asking the new President of Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden.
Well, nothing wrong, right? All for justice?
Except that Joe Biden’s also running for President in 2020. And lest you’re not aware, Trump’s of course going for a reelection.
In other words…it’s considered a political favour.
“Read the transcript!”
Well, that’s Trump’s primary defence.
It all started with a call between Trump and the Ukraine President; apparently, to Trump, he’s not asking for a favour. The telephone call transcript was released to the public, so people can determine whether it’s really a quid pro quo (i.e. asking for favour) or not.
But how did it all started?
After all, Presidents make calls all the time. How can one call stand out?
Apparently, a whistleblower had leaked the information out, for he or she or it thinks that it’s “wrong”. The identity of the whistleblower hasn’t been revealed.
In addition, the Ukraine President has also publicly stated that he wasn’t pressured on the issue. Lest you’re wondering, yes, the funds have been released to Ukraine liao.
Trump and his party have claimed that it was all a “witch hunt” and during the hearings, the defence that the Republicans used was mainly how the Democratic has used impeachment solely to remove the President from office and not because of his actions.
This morning, after hours of debate, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump based on two “wrongdoings”: one for the abuse of power as mentioned earlier and the second for the obstruction of Congress.
Wait, obstruction of Congress?
Well, since the inquiry began, Congress has been sending subpoenas (requests to attend court) to people in the Executive Branch, but they’ve not gone to testify, allegedly due to Trump’s request (he’s still the boss, remember).
The trial is set to be early next year, and unless there are many defectors in Trump’s party, he won’t create history because there has been no President in US history that was removed from office due to impeachment.
However, two other Presidents have been impeached before: Andrew Johnson in 1868 for a whopping 11 Articles of Impeachment (i.e. “wrongdoings”) and Bill Clinton in 1998 for two Articles of Impeachment.
Both were, however, not removed from office as the Senate trial did not garner the required two-third votes.
But in an event that a President is removed from office, the Vice-President will take over the role.
Well, actually, not much difference lah since the Vice-President is also a Republican…though Trevor Noah might have fewer jokes in his show le.
And it’s going to be an even more exciting 2020 election.