More than 200 members of the US House of Representatives now support an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. “Impeachment,” according to Dictionary.com, is defined as “The presentation of formal charges against a public official by the lower house” with “Trial to be before the upper house.”
The question – according to Virginia Tech Political Science Professor Dr. Karen Hult – is not whether Trump broke the law in speaking with the Ukranian president. On that call, Trump asks President Zelenski to investigate presidential candidate Joe Biden and Biden’s son.
The question is whether lawmakers feel that call fits the definition of a “High Crime or Misdemeanor.”
The tricky part is it’s not clear exactly what that means, especially since only two other presidents have ever been impeached.
Hult says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement is far short of booting President Trump from office.
“What is does not mean is that she’s scheduled an impeachment vote, nor does it mean there will ever be articles of impeachment on which the House will vote. What it does mean is that she’s bringing the six committees that have been investigating the president under the umbrella of an impeachment inquiry,” she said.
She says after an inquiry, more than half of the house – or 218 members – would have to vote for articles of impeachment, then more than two-thirds of the senate – or 67 members – would have to vote to convict the president. Something she does not see happening.
“Somewhat likely that the house will pass one or more articles of impeachment. I would say zero likelihood – under the current conditions, what we know now – that there will be any conviction in the Senate,” she said.
She adds – the Senate trial would be presided over by the chief Supreme Court justice, with the Senate Majority Leader deciding the rules.
She stresses it’s not a criminal trial.
“What it means, if a president is not convicted of those impeachment charges, is simply that he has not been convicted. It means nothing else,” she said.
She says the process would surely be divisive, and that the house’s portion alone could take until the end of fall.
Some voters say lawmakers could focus on one of a number of impeachable offenses; others agree with Trump’s assessment that it’s all a prolonged “witch hunt.”
“I know that it is going to be a really long process, but I hope that they will actually get rid of him and put in someone that can actually make america great,” said Jane Smith, a Roanoke voter.
“I’ve never seen a president harassed and- there’s been at least a year-long investigation on it, and they still haven’t found anything,” added Charles Cox, another Roanoke voter.
Hult says – in the unlikely event trump is removed – Vice President Pence would then take his place.
It’s worth noting the White House did not produce a transcript of that call, but rather a summary. That summary does not show a definitive quid-pro-quo between Trump and the Ukranian president, but Hult says the difference in power between the two countries means one could be implied.