Six months into Donald Trump‘s presidency, a congressman has filed an article of impeachment against him. The president has been embroiled in controversies since well before he took the oath of office in January, particularly relating to an investigation into possible connections between his campaign and the Russian government. Trump has adamantly denied any suggestion that he and his team colluded with Russia to sway the US election, but recent events moved two Democratic representatives to take a first formal step in the impeachment process.
On Wednesday, July 12, California congressman Brad Sherman and Texas congressman Al Green introduced an article of impeachment against Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors.
While a small number of Democrats have discussed impeachment in recent months, a recent revelation in matters concerning the Trump-Russia scandal and investigation prompted Sherman and Green to take action.
In a statement about the article he filed, Sherman says: “Recent disclosures by Donald Trump Jr. indicate that Trump’s campaign was eager to receive assistance from Russia. It now seems likely that the President had something to hide when he tried to curtail the investigation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the wider Russian probe. I believe his conversations with, and subsequent firing of, FBI Director James Comey constitute Obstruction of Justice.”
The disclosures Sherman refers to are a series of emails published by Trump Jr. on Twitter this week that reveal he agreed to meet with a “Russian government attorney” to discuss damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the filing “utterly and completely ridiculous and a political game at its worst.”
And some political experts say impeachment isn’t likely at this point. Mark Peterson, a professor of political science with the University of California, Los Angeles, tells Pacific Standard, “This is a story that will clearly be developing through twists and turns over the coming months, a kind of slow burn that will keep drawing attention, but it is far too soon to know where it will actually lead.”
Nate Silver, statistician, writer, and founder and editor-in-chief of the website FiveThirtyEight, published a painstakingly detailed article at the end of May about the likelihood that Trump will be impeached. Though he writes that he wasn’t comfortable giving a solid number, he was willing to say that there’s between a 25 and 50 percent chance Trump will leave office early. While this doesn’t provide a sense of assurance for the future, it does indicate how complicated the impeachment process is, and how many unknowns there still are.
Further, several Democrats have spoken out in opposition of Sherman and Green’s article of impeachment. House minority whip, representative Steny Hoyer from Maryland, tells The Hill that “a discussion about impeachment is not timely,” echoing concerns of other House Democrats who worry impeachment could hurt them in their home states.
In order for Trump to be impeached, a majority of the House of Representatives would need to investigate the charges brought about in Sherman and Green’s article, and then vote in favor of his impeachment. If the House, which is currently controlled by Republicans, impeached Trump, the issue would then be taken to the Senate. In this event, the Senate would take the form of a court and would have the power to convict Trump of the crime(s) the House impeached him for.
In the Senate, the House would present a case for prosecution against Trump, and Trump (i.e. his lawyers) would present the defense. For him to be found guilty, two-thirds of the Senate would need to vote in favor. From there, the Senate could remove the president from office, or let him remain in his post but disqualify him from ever holding federal office again.
The possibility of impeachment is a long way off, but two House Democrats clearly think they have a case. The FBI, CIA, NSA, and multiple congressional committees are already investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and now the administration may have another battle to contend with.
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