Everything you need to know about Trump’s second impeachment proceedings

El presidente Donald Trump habla con los medios de comunicación antes de abordar el Marine One en el jardín sur de la Casa Blanca, el martes 12 de enero de 2021, en Washington.
El presidente Donald Trump habla con los medios de comunicación antes de abordar el Marine One en el jardín sur de la Casa Blanca, el martes 12 de enero de 2021, en Washington.
(Associated Press)

One impeachment is rare, but two is completely unprecedented.

Extraordinary political moments seem to be, however, just another day in the Trump administration as the president faces a second impeachment on Wednesday. Here is everything you need to know about it:

Why is Trump being impeached for a second time?

In what feels like one million years ago but was actually December 2019, Trump was impeached for the first time, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after he allegedly solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election – he was later acquitted.

This time around, Trump is facing charges for "inciting violence against the government of the United States" following the riots that took place at the Capitol in Washington last week after Trump made a speech to his supporters saying “you will never take back our country with weakness” and encouraged people to “fight like hell” after making false claims he was the true winner of the election. 

(Later, in his first public comments since the riot – in which five people died – Trump took no responsibility for the violence calling his remarks ‘totally appropriate’.)

While there were initially calls for Trump to be removed via the 25th amendment – which required the agreement of the vice president – Mike Pence later said in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he did not believe that “such a course of action is in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our constitution”. (Despite Trump saying Pence ‘lacked courage’ on his now suspended-Twitter account for not overturning the 2020 election result).

Because Pence refused to invoke the 25th Amendment – which would have required a vote from the VP and the cabinet to remove Trump from office – House Speaker Pelosi has now moved to her next option.

What is the timeline for impeachment?

The clock is ticking fast on this impeachment, as Joe Biden is set to take office on 20 January, so Congress would need to move  fast in order to convict Trump.

While impeachments usually take months of planning, organising and questioning, in this case the House of Representatives plans to move quickly – particularly as many lawmakers witnessed the event firsthand.

On Monday, Pelosi unveiled a single article of impeachment charging Trump with “incitement to insurrection”

On Tuesday, Pence refused to invoke the 25th Amendment which cleared the way for impeachment.

On Wednesday, only nine days before Biden’s inauguration, the House is expected to vote to adopt the article with a slim margin, but still a majority.

What happens after that? This is where it becomes a bit unclear…

As you may remember from the last impeachment, while the House votes for impeachment, it is up to the Senate to actually convict the president.

At the moment, the Senate has a very small Republican majority and it is unclear if and when the House will send the articles to the Senate chamber.

If Trump impeached, the Senate will hold a trial to determine his guilt. It would require a two-thirds majority of the upper chamber to convict him, meaning at least 17 Republicans would have to vote for conviction.

How likely is it that Trump will be convicted?

If Trump is impeached, the Senate will hold a trial to determine his guilt. 

While it seems likely the impeachment will pass the House, the Senate is a different story. While Trump is in office, his Republican party holds the majority, but once Biden takes office Democrats will control the Senate by an extremely thin margin after an important Senate runoff win in Georgia

So, at least until 20 January, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans still call the shots in the Senate. And while Republicans are in control, they get to decide whether to start the trial and how it will be handled.

Because of this, a conviction seems somewhat unlikely if it goes through to the Senate while under Republican control. Especially with a two-thirds majority needed, many Republicans would need to change sides in order to convict the president.

But compared to the first impeachment, a good portion of Republicans seem to have different feelings on the issue.

What do Republicans think about it?

On Tuesday, TheNew York Times reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is privately welcoming impeachment (which might tell you something about how others are feeling as well). And a number of senior figures in the Republican party in the House have said they would vote to impeach Trump (including the House’s third most senior Republican Liz Cheney).

This is not to mention that a majority of Americans now also believe that this is the right action for Congress to take, which adds to reason to believe it could be successful.

What will happen after Biden’s inauguration?

In other words, can the Senate even hold a trial for a president no longer in office? Because of the very short timeline, some argue there is no point to the impeachment as Trump will soon just be a private citizen.

And while there is little precedent on this matter, others have said it is important for the conviction to go through because it would bar Trump from holding office in the future (AKA no ‘MAGA 2024’).

Beyond that, the principle is the point, as many Democrats have argued. As former presidential candidate and Senator Bernie wrote:

“Some people ask: Why would you impeach and convict a president who has only a few days left in office? The answer: Precedent.”

He added: “It must be made clear that no president, now or in the future, can lead an insurrection against the U.S. government.”

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