|At the 2017 Women's March, the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration. (Photo: Lylah M. Alphonse)
I'm astonished by how many lawmakers are circulating misinformation about impeachment. I know I shouldn't be -- they're counting on people being ignorant about the process. Impeachment is not about overturning an election or installing a new leader with a different political ideology. FWIW, here are 10 things to know about impeachment:
- Impeachment and removal from office are two separate things.
- Impeachment happens in the House of Representatives.
- Conviction -- the decision to remove the person from office -- happens in the Senate (and requires a 2/3 vote).
- Senators are not involved in the impeachment process in the House. Representatives are not involved in the conviction process in the Senate.
- Mitch McConnell can't stop the impeachment process. He can choose not to convict.
- Nancy Pelosi can't remove the president from office. She can vote to impeach -- or censure -- him for his actions.
- Witnesses aren't called as part of the impeachment process in the House.
- A coup is a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government. Impeachment is a charge of misconduct made against a person holding elected office, and the process is outlined in our Constitution.
- One can be impeached but not removed from office. Both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate (and not removed from office). Nixon was not impeached -- he resigned before the House could vote on the articles of impeachment.
- There is a line of succession that must be followed if the President is removed from office -- there's no random appointment, the office doesn't revert to the other main political party, the other political party doesn't install someone temporarily. If Donald Trump is impeached **and** removed from office, Vice President Mike Pence becomes President. If Donald Trump is impeached and **not** removed from office, he's still the President and can finish out his term (and run for another one, if he so chooses).
BONUS 11th THING!
- The Trump administration is now saying it will not cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry. But while refusing to cooperate complicates the inquiry -- a refusal to comply can become it's own article of impeachment, because doing so obstructs the investigation and thus obstructs justice -- it doesn't stop the impeachment process. That is: The House doesn't need Trump to comply in order to vote to impeach him.
Want more? Here's a primer on impeachment, and here's the U.S. Constitution, handily annotated so you can find more information about various terms and topics. Both are worth a read.