With Donald Trump now officially the 45th president of the United States (I cringe just writing that), the question that many Americans and others around the world are asking is, “What now?” As someone who admittedly knows very little about politics, never mind the seemingly backwards world of US politics, I am in no way equipped to make a half-decent guess. Given his tumultuous campaign and months leading up to his inauguration, all we can do for now is to brace for what’s next, no matter what it is.
However, what I do know is that there are already bets being placed on how long America’s first orange president is going to survive in office. Odds and gambling are also somewhat foreign to me, but what I have managed to get out of the articles that I’ve read on the topic is that the general consensus is that Donald Trump isn’t going to last his first term without getting impeached. Putting aside the speculation over whether or not Trump will make a full four years in office, I’d like to briefly go over what could happen if he is indeed impeached.
First of all, what the heck is impeachment?
Basically, impeachment is a process laid out by the United States constitution that allows government officials to be put to trial if they are accused of committing a crime or of other objectionable behaviour while in office. The process that Trump would undergo to be removed from his position as president would go somewhat as follows:
- Trump would have to be accused of some sort of punishable offence. This does not necessarily have to be a violation of criminal law, but may fall under several broad categories, including “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours.” (U.S. Constitution Article II, Section IV)
- The House of Representatives must decide if impeachment is an appropriate/necessary course of action. Somewhat like passing a bill, more than half (a majority) of house members must vote in favour of impeachment. If the vote passes, Trump would be impeached. The only two presidents to ever have been impeached were Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.
- The Senate then votes on whether to convict Trump on the alleged charges. Impeachment cases sent to the Senate are treated like trials in which two thirds of senators must vote in favour of conviction. It is at this point that if the impeached president is voted guilty that they would be removed from office. Therefore, it is possible for Trump to be impeached and to remain in office. In fact, both Johnson and Clinton were not found guilty in their respective Senate trials, so no U.S. president has ever been removed from office by impeachment.
In short, it would be a long, arduous process to remove Trump from office in the first place.
What happens if Trump is ever declared guilty by the Senate on impeachment charges?
That’s where it gets complicated. If and when a president is removed from office, the vice president will step in to fill their role until the end of the current presidential term. (3 USC § 19) This would mean that Mike Pence, the current vice president, would take over for Trump until the end of his term, or unless he was unable to fill the position. In this case, whoever’s next in line for succession would become Acting President.
Wait, Mike Pence?
Yep. The former governor of Indiana and albeit controversial VP would take over America’s top political job. With backwards policies on issues including abortion and family planning, LBGT+ rights, military eligibility and gun control, Pence would bring some concerning stances to the Oval Office. Even knowing that he is in favour of redirecting funding dedicated to HIV/AIDS support and research in favour of conversion therapy is enough to know that a Pence presidency could bring about a rash of problems and the reversal of hard-fought progress. I invite you to read up on Pence’s track record to see for yourself just how deeply his controversial view run.
Overall, I guess it’s a matter of whether you’d prefer gross incompetence or a jarring throwback to 60+ years ago. All I can say is that for once, I agree with something that Montréal mayor Denis Coderre has said.
There are some issues […] and I think that […] we have to give him a chance. Of course we’re not in agreement with everything he’s saying.
Yes, the Trump presidency will likely be the dumpster fire of the century, but unless we wait and see how it pans out, jumping to conclusions is sure to be less productive than trying to find a solution to current issues.