If you’re sick of hearing about, reading about, and talking about Donald Trump, fret not, the whole debacle is almost over.
Sure, Trump is the still President of the United States, but not for long.
On 20 Jan, President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated, becoming the 46th president of the United States.
After losing the election last November, Trump could have saved at least a sliver of his face by respecting the democratic process and choice of Americans.
Instead, he’s spread unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in the election, claiming he was the real winner.
Over the last few months, Trump has stirred the emotions of his sycophantic supporters by drumming up resistance to his defeat, culminating in a violent riot at the Capitol Hill, a meeting place of the United States Congress in Washington, D.C.
He had then told
5 people have died so far, including four rioters and one police officer.
For inciting the violent uprising against the government, Trump has been impeached by the US House of Representatives for a second time.
Now, this might lead you to believe that he’d immediately be kicked out of the White House, but nope; he’s still president.
So, why is this the case?
To understand this, we first have to understand how the US government works.
Impeached by House of Representatives
The US government comprises three main branches.
Congress creates the laws, the Executive Branch implements and ensures the laws are followed, and the Judicial Branch decides how those laws are interpreted and applied.
The men and women who are in Congress are like MPs in Singapore; they’re voted into office by the people.
Congress is divided into two institutions: the Senate, which has 100 seats, and the House of Representatives, which has 435 seats.
At the moment, the Democrats hold a majority in the house as they have 222 seats.
Whether it’s a law, act, regulation, or directive, the majority in the house will get to enact it after they take it to a vote.
And that’s exactly what the House of Representatives did when they voted to impeach Trump on Wednesday (14 Jan), voting 232-197.
That’s right, 10 members of Trump’s Republican Party joined the 222 Democrats to impeach him.
The Impeachment Process
An impeachment is a process by which an incumbent president of the United States is accused of wrongdoing.
It is a political process, not a criminal one.
As previously mentioned, the process begins in the House of Representatives, and requires a simple majority vote, which is 50% plus one.
But impeachment doesn’t mean anything if a president is not later found guilty by the Senate, the upper (and other) chamber of the United States Congress.
See, a sitting president can actually continue to govern even after being impeached.
Trump, for instance, continued to govern after his impeachment in December 2019, and also ran for reelection last year.
For Trump to actually be removed from office, he has to be found guilty in a Senate trial, which is presided over by the chief justice of the United States.
In the Senate trial, two-thirds of the members must vote in favour for Trump to be removed.
Yes, it’s not just the majority (51%), but two-thirds.
Currently, Trump’s party has control (i.e. majority) of the Senate, but that’s set to change come 20 January, when Joe Biden’s party will have control over both houses.
And that’s also the reason why Trump wasn’t afraid of being removed from office last January; he was impeached but had the support of the senate.
A Senate trial won’t take place so fast after a President is impeached; in his first impeachment, he was impeached on 18 December 2019 but the trial only ended 5 February 2020.
In the US Constitution, “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” are listed as justifications for impeachment.
So, what did Trump do?
“Incitement of Insurrection”
As you know, a large group of Trump supporters recently stormed the Capitol Hill building in Washington in an attempt to overturn his defeat in the election.
Well, Trump is accused of inciting this rebellion.
On 6 Jan, Trump addressed a speech to his followers, urging them to march to the Capitol building peacefully and patriotically, but pushing them to “fight like hell” in protest of a supposedly rigged election.
And so they did.
On the same day, his supporters marched to the Capitol building, and it didn’t take long for the protests to get violent.
Protestors broke into the Capitol and assaulted Capitol Police officers and reporters and even attempted to locate lawmakers to take hostage.
Many pointed fingers at Trump for inciting anger over the election, including some world leaders.
The article of impeachment stated that Trump “repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the presidential election results were fraudulent and should not be accepted”.
It said that he “willfully made statements to the crowd that encouraged and foreseeably resulted in lawless action at the Capitol”, leading to the violence and loss of life.
In the end, he was impeached for “incitement of insurrection” by the House of Representatives”.
So, what’s next?
A Senate or Post-presidency Trial
Trump now faces a Senate trial, but it’s unlikely to happen for several reasons.
For one, Trump only has six days left in his presidency before Biden takes over, and previous impeachment trials had lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days.
Moreover, the Senate is currently in recess and is not scheduled to return until 19 Jan.
So, will Trump simply get away with it?
While the Senate has never tried an ex-president, they have tried former senators and judges after they were no longer in office.
And if a trial begins after 20 Jan, when Biden becomes President, Trump could end up being convicted after all.
The only question now is: will he leave his office peacefully and let Biden take his seat?
Featured Image: Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock.com