US President Donald Trump is the first President in US history to be indicted twice by the House of Representatives. But how does such a procedure work? What must be taken into account this time, shortly after the change of government? And how do the Republicans behave? Answers to the most important questions:
How does the impeachment procedure, which was passed by Congress on January 13th, work?
Impeachment proceedings are vaguely reminiscent of legal proceedings. The House of Representatives acts as the indictment and the Senate acts as the court.
Only the House of Representatives can set it in motion. It has the sole right to bring charges against an incumbent president. All that is needed is a resolution that must be passed by an absolute majority of the MPs. This must include the charges and a reason. The President is formally charged with the decision.
In a second step, the Senate must then check whether the indictment is upheld. So, on the one hand, whether things happened as described in the indictment. And secondly, whether these actions are sufficient to remove the president from office. The lawsuit is represented in the Senate by a delegation from the House of Representatives. His lawyers speak for the president.
What role do the senators play?
Each of the 100 senators is a judge in the trial. The current presiding judge of the Supreme Court, in this case John Roberts, will preside over an impeachment case. He leads the procedure, but has no decision-making power. If in the end two-thirds of the senators approve, Trump is convicted and removed from office.
There is one more special feature: the senators have no right to speak in the proceedings. However, you can submit your questions to any witnesses in writing to the presiding judge. Roberts then has to read it out.
Why has Trump been charged?
For “inciting an uprising”. On January 6, in a seditious speech to tens of thousands of supporters in front of the White House, he urged his fans to march to the Capitol. In the run-up to his rally, Trump had advertised the event on Twitter by saying that it would be “wild”. All of this led to the storming of the Capitol on the same day, say the Democrats and some Republicans as well.
Trump also urged electoral supervisors in Georgia to redeclare the election result in Biden’s favor as a victory for Trump. In a recorded phone call, for example, he asked the responsible Home Secretary, Brad Raffensperger, to “find” 11,779 votes for him that would make him a winner. This could be considered an abuse of office and is listed in the indictment.
How long does an impeachment procedure take?
It can be very different. So far, the proceedings have taken weeks to months. In 2019, for example, it took almost three months from the announcement that the process would start in the House of Representatives to the impeachment decision on December 18. This time it was only a few days.
When does the Senate take over the proceedings?
This Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will officially notify the Senate of the January 13th impeachment resolution. The rules say the Senate must then initiate the process immediately. The senators should be sworn in for the procedure on Tuesday. From then on, the prosecutors and defense lawyers would have time to work out their positions, said Democrat Chuck Schumer. In the week of February 8, the process should then begin.
In the Senate, Schumer has taken over the majority leadership from Republican Mitch McConnell. This means that all procedural questions can now be determined by the Democrats, who, together with the casting vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, have a slim majority of 51-50 votes in the Senate. You determine whether and which witnesses should be heard and what evidence is admitted.
There are hardly any fixed rules for all of this. These are adjusted for each impeachment procedure, mostly based on previous procedures.
It is still unclear whether the Senate will initially concentrate solely on the impeachment process. Or whether he creates the freedom to confirm ministers in office whom Joe Biden has nominated. Another Corona aid package is also pending.
Whether foreign, defense or deputy building minister, almost every important government position has to be confirmed by the Senate. And every candidate is first heard by the Senate. That costs time, which the Senate does not have when it first has to go through a complex impeachment procedure.
What sense does it make to want to remove a president who is no longer in office?
There are various reasons for this. For one thing, it would be a symbolic drawing of boundaries. A president has never been removed from office. Trump would be the first. It would be tantamount to a subsequent dishonorable discharge. The very fact that Trump is the first president to be indicted twice in one term is a significant historical flaw.
A solid reason, however, is that the Senators can forbid Trump to accept public office in the future. The danger of Trump running for the 2024 presidential election would thus be averted.
This is only possible after a two-thirds majority has decided to impeach. Seventeen Republican Senators would have to vote with the Democrats to make that possible. Trump could then be excluded from all future offices with a simple majority.
The Democrats hope the argument can win a number of Republicans on their side. So far the chances of this are slim. Mitch McConnell has shown sympathy for impeachment. And recently accused Trump of “provoking” the uprising in the Capitol. If he were to publicly announce that he would vote for Trump’s impeachment, it could inspire some Republicans to do the same. Mitchell’s calculation: He wants to curtail Trump’s influence on the Republican Party.