“The Constitution permits Congress to remove presidents before their term is up if enough lawmakers vote to say that they committed ‘treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.’ Only two presidents have been impeached—Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998—and both were ultimately acquitted and completed their terms in office. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 to avoid being impeached.
In both the Nixon and the Clinton cases, the House Judiciary Committee first held an investigation and recommended articles of impeachment to the full House. In theory, however, the House of Representatives could instead set up a special panel to handle the proceedings—or just hold a floor vote on such articles without any committee vetting them.
When the full House votes on articles of impeachment, if at least one gets a majority vote, the president is impeached—which is essentially the equivalent of being indicted.
Next, the proceedings move to the Senate, which is to hold a trial overseen by the chief justice of the United States.
A team of lawmakers from the House, known as managers, play the role of prosecutors. The president has defense lawyers, and the Senate serves as the jury.
If at least two-thirds of the senators find the president guilty, he is removed and the vice president takes over as president. There is no appeal.” (“How the Impeachment Process Works,” The New York Times, Dec. 2, 2019)
Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen unfold before the world’s eyes the spectre of impeachment proceedings in the United States. Although the way it has played out makes it seem like a trivial and sometimes even humorous matter–mainly because of the caricature-like personalities involved, it is in fact a very serious and even somber proceeding. Removing a sitting president, especially in the country that prides itself as the bastion of democracy, is not something to be taken lightly, as the above description of the process describes.
Here, though, it seems that the trivialization was initiated by the impeachee and not by the impeachers, as it were. From what the impartial world can observe, US President Donald Trump has so debased the office of the presidency that removing him from office, even if his Republican supporters insist is turning into a circus, is no greater embarrassment to the American nation than what he has done while he has been in office.
It’s not supposed to be this way, the world judging America in the way it conducts its affairs of state. After all, it was not that long ago that the US played the role of democratic mentor to the rest of the world, showing by example how a nation should be governed–of the people, for the people and by the people.
Trump has turned this governance model on its head and the US and the American people–perhaps due to extreme shock and disbelief–don’t seem to know how to react.
The current impeachment proceeding has been described my many of the president’s supporters as an embarrassment for the US, in the way it has shown to the world how it is treating its own leader.
But while it is true that this may be one grotesque and sorry episode in the nation’s history, perhaps–and sadly so–it is only with such a spectacle that the US can end what has been an even sorrier and more grotesque chapter in its recent history.