The history and impact of the Trump impeachment trial

Anna Schleck

The history of impeachments in US politics is short with only a few men gracing the list. Impeachment is the process by which a legislative body indicts a government official. A common misconception of impeachment is that when a president is impeached they are automatically removed from office. In reality, the impeachment is simply a vote from the House of Representatives to pass articles that then get sent to the Senate to be voted on. If the Senate votes in favor of an article then the president will be removed. The first president to be impeached was Andrew Johnson in 1868. He was impeached for firing the Secretary of War but was acquitted of removal by one vote from the Senate. The second president impeached was Bill Clinton who was accused of having inappropriate relations with a White House staffer in the infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal, as well as lying under oath in 1998. Clinton was also acquitted by the Senate. In between Johnson and Clinton, Richard Nixon happened. Nixon was accused of trying to gain an upper hand in the next election by breaking into the Democratic National Convention headquarters in the Watergate hotel in Washington, D.C. Nixon’s case would probably  have led to his removal from office, but he was never formally impeached or removed, as he resigned from office before an official inquiry could take place. 

 

The last president to be impeached was Donald Trump, who was impeached by the House of Representatives on two articles. The first article was abuse of power stemming from his alleged involvement in freezing financial aid from the US being provided to Ukraine. The second article was obstruction of Congress, when he allegedly directed White House officials to ignore subpoenas issued by Congress. Trump was acquitted of both articles of impeachment on February 5, 2020. The vote came down to a 48-52 decision on the first article and a 47-53 decision on the second article. To date, no US president has been removed from office as a result of an impeachment trial. Richard Nixon’s trial is the only successful removal of a president ,as he resigned from office before he could be formally impeached.

 

The most recent impeachment trial brought back memories of the previous impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. The current political atmosphere has been hostile and has caused people to question the foundation of the US political system and the rule of law. The importance of this current impeachment trial cannot be understated. The change in political views between the Clinton trial and the Trump trial have highlighted the shift in political partisanship. In regards to the coverage of the current trial, one teacher who wished to remain anonymous said, “There are many similarities, most notably a partisan process on both sides. In fact, senators and political pundits from back then are now taking the exact opposite stance that they did then, which often means contradicting their statements from back then.” The reversal of views has reflected the way many politicians have kept their seats by going with the majority so that they don’t get voted out of office instead of standing up for the voters they are representing. One particular senator that came out against Trump, much to the surprise of the Republican party, was republican senator Mitt Romney from Massachusetts. Romney ran against Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential elections. With his vote, Romney became the first Senator to vote to remove a president from their own party.

 

So, now what? The long process to try and remove the current commander-in-chief has ended, and he will serve out his term. Come November, the true ramifications from this trial will be seen. Another teacher said, “The President’s approval polls have improved lately. He’s probably in a stronger position. The Democratic candidate will need to make the election more about the issues that people care about.” The significance that was once associated with a president’s impeachment has lost its power to sway the public. When it comes down to picking the next president, the mark of impeachment will simply be a blemish on the current administration’s record. As one teacher said, “the significance to US history only comes in the form of a new trivia question” when talking about this impeachment. The true impact of this impeachment is yet to be seen and may never truly be seen as more than a statistic.