Here's what happens if Trump gets impeached by the House

Here's what happens if Trump gets impeached by the House

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House before departing to Fayetteville, North Carolina in Washington, U.S. September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott


Trump heads to Fayetteville


On Wednesday, December 18, the House of Representatives is holding a vote on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump for abusing his office and obstructing Congress, setting the stage for an impeachment trial next month.

The impeachment process began in the House Judiciary Committee, which last Friday drafted and then approved articles of impeachment to be sent to the full House of Representatives by a vote, where they need a simple majority to pass.

In the articles of impeachment, Democrats charge that Trump abused his office to benefit his re-election prospects. Days after withholding a nearly $400 million military-aid package to Ukraine, he used a July 25 phone with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian oil-and-gas company.

Multiple career diplomats and national security officials testified under oath that the Trump administration explicitly conditioned lifting the hold of the military aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting on Zelensky publicly announcing investigations into Burisma and a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.


The House has 430 voting members, meaning a majority of 216 must vote favorably on both articles for them to pass. The body is currently made up of 232 Democrats, 196 voting Republicans, and one independent, meaning both articles of impeachment have more than enough Democratic votes to pass.

What exactly is impeachment?

Impeachment by the House doesn't mean automatic removal from office. The impeachment process can be thought of as somewhat analogous to a criminal proceeding, even though impeachable offenses don't have to be criminal offenses. The House, like a grand jury, collects evidence, hears testimony, and drafts articles of impeachment - or charges - against the president.

The constitutional mechanism for the impeachment of a federal officer including presidents, vice presidents, and federal judges is laid out in Article II, Section 4 of the US constitution, which reads, "the President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

Mitch McConnell

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

What happens next?

If a majority of the House votes today to charge the president on or both articles of impeachment, the US Senate holds an impeachment trial to either convict or acquit Trump on the charges.


In the trial, both sides present their cases to the senators, who act as jurors, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts presiding as the judge.

A number of Democratic House Representatives will serve as designated impeachment managers, or prosecutors, in the trial, and other members of Congress or White House lawyers can argue Trump's defense.

Since Congress is going on recess for the holidays, the US Senate trial is expected to start in January. Leading Senate Republicans have indicated they want to get the trial done as quickly as possible, meaning Senators may take a vote without hearing any additional witness testimony.

For Trump to be removed from office, two-thirds of the US Senate - 67 members - must vote to convict him of articles of impeachment. Currently, the Senate consists of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two independents who caucus with Democrats, meaning Trump is highly unlikely to be removed from office.

Congress has never removed a president through the impeachment process before in American history. While two previous US presidents - Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton - were impeached by the House, both were acquitted in the Senate.


If Trump is impeached but not convicted in the Senate, he stays in office, and it'll be left up to the American people to reelect him or vote him out of office in 2020.

Read more:

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Here's how Trump could be impeached, removed from office, and still win re-election in 2020