Impeachment: the power of the people

During+this+impeachment+trial+there+was+greater+bipartisan+support+for+conviction+than+in+any+other+impeachment%2C+as+seven+Republicans+jumped+the+line+for+conviction.

Charlotte Westburg

During this impeachment trial there was greater bipartisan support for conviction than in any other impeachment, as seven Republicans jumped the line for conviction.

Raymond Vasquez, Staff Writer

The Oval Office has been home to 46 Presidents of the United States who have held executive power as the country’s Commander in Chief. Out of those 46 presidents, 16 have been the subject to some form of impeachment action and three have been formally impeached. Only one president has ever been impeached twice: the 45th president, Donald J. Trump.

Almost as old as our country, the impeachment process stems from the U.S. Constitution. According to Article Two, Section Four of the U.S. Constitution, “The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” 

Impeaching a president is a two-step process. “First, the House of Representatives acts to vote on an article of impeachment; it is akin to an indictment,” stated Westmont political science professor Dr. Tom Knecht. “After, the Senate acts as a jury and they decide on whether to convict or acquit on the articles of impeachment.”

To move forward with the article of impeachment in the House, a majority is required. That means that, out of the 435 voting members, 218 votes are required. For the Senate, a supermajority is required to obtain a conviction. For that to happen, 67 out of the 100 senators would need to vote in favor of conviction.

While many actions towards impeachment have been taken against numerous presidents, only three have been formally impeached. The first was Andrew Johnson in 1868, who allegedly violated the Tenure of Office Act when he removed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, a prominent radical Republican left over from the Lincoln Cabinet. The second president was Bill Clinton in 1998. The charges stemmed from President Clinton’s testimony denying that he had engaged in a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

The third and last president, as of now, to be formally impeached was Donald J. Trump. His impeachment in 2019 came with two articles that charged Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The first charge stemmed from accusations that the president solicited election assistance from Ukraine in the form of investigations to discredit his Democratic political rivals. The second charge claimed that the Trump Administration directly defied subpoenas issued by the House by ordering officials to refuse to testify.

In 2021, Trump became the first president to be impeached two separate times. In the second impeachment, Trump was accused of inciting a deadly insurrection against the United States by attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election results through the incitement of the United States Capitol riot on Jan 6. However, this impeachment, like the first, ended without a conviction.

When asked about her thoughts about the impeachment trials, Republican Grace Fundaro believed the trial to be “arbitrary, in regard to the fact that Trump had already lost the election.”

Political science major and senior Matthew Metz thought that “there was a high level of anxiety, among the president and his advisors, that he may be found guilty.” While Metz considers himself a centrist, he finds himself siding more with the Democratic Party on the topic of the impeachment trial.

As for independent political science and philosophy double major Freeman Wright, he believed the trial to be “funny, but not surprising in its result.”

The result Wright referred to was the acquittal of Donald Trump. The final vote by the Senate was 57 to 43, 10 votes short of the 67 needed to acquire a conviction. However, there was greater bipartisan support for conviction than in any other impeachment, as seven Republicans jumped the line for conviction.

When asked if she expected an acquittal, Fundaro said, “It was what I was hoping for, based on the evidence provided.” As for whether it was the right outcome based on what was expected, she believed “it would have been hypocritical if [Trump] had been convicted.” This belief is due to an argument brought up in the trial by the Trump defense team that many Democrat politicians, such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, had also made incendiary comments in the past. In her opinion, either all should be charged or none of them.

Metz expected an acquittal based on the fact that no president has ever been convicted in an impeachment trial before. “The president has an iron grip on the Republican base; if anyone voted to convict, they would lose their seat in the next election.” Wright believed that “he should have been convicted and barred from future office.”

As for Dr. Knecht, he fully believed that Trump should have been convicted in the trial. “If you take the totality of all of his comments and the specific situation then, that seems like incitement to me.”

Since the Reagan presidency, there has been some action of impeachment introduced in every presidency. What used to be a very rare and significant occurrence is turning into a custom for each president to endure. However, the impeachment process helps keep officials accountable. As long as citizens make their voices heard, the democratic system will ensure that these measures of accountability are used.

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