How did we get Here?: A breakdown of the impeachment of President Trump


Photo by: Mary Clare Jalonick and Laurie Kellman; Associated Press

Max Draus, News Editor

On Dec. 19, 2019, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, was impeached. For only the third time in American history, the House of Representatives has impeached a sitting president for, “High crimes and misdemeanors.” Article I, Abuse of Power, was passed, as well as Article II, Obstruction of Congress. These articles were drafted based on testimony given from several U.S. ambassadors and other State Department officials. When these articles were adopted, the votes fell along party lines for the most part. This means nearly all Democrats voted to adopt the articles, and all Republicans voted against the articles of impeachment. So how did we get here?

On Aug. 12, 2019, an anonymous whistleblower filed a complaint to the House of Representatives and Senate Permanent Committees on Intelligence. What sparked the whistleblower’s complaint was Trump’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. In the phone call, the whistleblower alleged, “The president of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

On Sept. 23, 2019, multiple news sources, including The New York Times, reported that Trump placed a hold on nearly $400 million in aide that Congress had appropriated to be granted to Ukraine in order to aid their efforts in their ongoing war with Russia. Democrats were quick to label this as a “quid pro quo,” which is Latin for, “Something for something.” In this case, the withholding of military aid for Ukraine was contingent on Zelensky announcing investigations into corruption in the 2016 election and his main political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump continuously asserted his July phone call as a “perfect” call. Republicans in the House followed suit and argued there was no quid pro quo. On Sept. 24, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an official impeachment inquiry. This was the start of the House’s investigation into the whistleblower’s complaint. There are laws in place that protect the whistleblower’s identity; they remain anonymous. After Pelosi announced the official inquiry, the House Intelligence Committee began sending subpoenas to hold closed-door hearings.

On Oct. 31, 2019, the House of Representatives voted to adopt the rules and procedures for the inquiry. First, the Intelligence committee would hold public hearings for witnesses that followed subpoenas. Next, the House Judiciary Committee would have constitutional scholars testify to interpret the U.S. Constitution and what America’s founders thought impeachment would be used for. After their testimony, the House Judiciary Committee would draft and approve official articles of impeachment. Then, the House Rules Committee would decide on how the full House of Representatives would vote on the articles. Lastly, the entire House of Representatives would vote on whether they would impeach or not.

A large aspect of the House of Representative’s decision was based on public opinion polling and what their constituents were thinking. Preliminary polling conducted by Fox News in late October showed 51 percent of Americans favor impeaching and removing Trump. In early November, a CNN poll said 50 percent of Americans are in favor of impeaching and removing the president. According to a survey of 214 LSE Students, 60 percent of respondents are in favor of impeaching and removing the president. This is higher than the national polling. Now that the House of Representatives has approved the articles of impeachment, there will be a trial in the Senate.

Impeachment is a two-step process. First, there is a vote that is held in the 435-member House of Representatives. If a simple majority, 51 percent of the members, vote to pass the articles, the president of the U.S. is impeached. A president being impeached does not remove him/her from office. This is just essentially accusing the president of wrongdoing.

Second, after the president is impeached, there is a trial held in the Senate. The trial will determine whether or not the accusations (articles of impeachment) presented by the House of Representatives are serious enough to remove the president from office. The Senate is comprised of 100 members; two senators from each state. Evidence will be presented and argued. If a supermajority, 67 Senators, vote to remove the president from office, the president is removed from the presidency and the current vice president becomes the new president.

The trial can only start once the Pelosi sends the articles of impeachment over to the Senate. Pelosi has been withholding the articles since they were adopted on Dec. 19. She was doing so as leverage to ensure the Senate trial is conducted to what she deems as “fair.” Witnesses that the House of Representatives was not able to obtain in their investigation, including former National Security Advisor John Bolton, have publicly stated that they will adhere to a Senate subpoena. This would provide information that the House of Representatives didn’t have when conducting their investigation. On Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, Pelosi stated that the articles of impeachment would be sent the following week of Jan. 13, 2020. Once the articles are received, the trial will immediately begin.

Why does all of this matter to LSE students? Aside from the impeachment being a historical event, students have the capability to spark change. Southeast Government and Politics teacher, Dave Nebel, provides his insight.

LSE students should pay attention to the trial, weigh the evidence and communicate their opinions to both Sen. Ben Sasse and Sen. Deb Fischer to ensure that our elected leaders respect the limits of the power of their office,” Nebel said.

How can you get involved and make a difference? Nebraska has two senators, Fischer and Sasse, who will serve as jurors in Trump’s senate trial. Nebraskans have the ability to contact these public officials and share their opinions on impeachment.

Contact Sasse with your opinions on impeachment by calling (202) 224-4224. Contact Fisher with your opinions on impeachment by calling (202) 224-6551. You can make a difference.

Contacting your representatives is an imperative step in the impeachment process. Senators exist to fulfill the wants and needs of their constituents — you. Contacting them with your opinion is crucial. 

“The salvation of the state depends on it,” Nebel said.