US Speaker Pelosi announces Trump impeachment investigation

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Yesterday afternoon, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, announced that she would be launching an impeachment inquiry into the conduct of United States President Donald Trump. Pelosi had previously opposed impeachment proceedings.

Pelosi announcing the impeachment investigation
Image: C-SPAN.

Pelosi called Trump's conduct a "breach of his Constitutional responsibilities," according to NBC. "[T]he House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry," she announced. Specifically, she was directing six of the House's committees to "proceed with their investigations under [the] umbrella" of impeachment.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee do not all agree on how impeachment inquiries work. Republican committee member Doug Collins of Georgia said on Twitter, "Until the full House votes to authorize an inquiry, nobody is conducting a formal inquiry." Democratic committee chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York has repeatedly maintained an impeachment inquiry is what the committee is already doing.

The New York Times reported that, in a phone call in late July, Trump might have encouraged newly elected Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, who served as Vice President from 2008 until 2016. Joe Biden is a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election. Trump characterized the call with Zelensky as "perfectly fine and routine."

Trump, responding to Pelosi's announcement via Twitter, attacked the impeachment investigation as "Witch Hunt garbage."

Impeachment is the process by which a federal official, including the president, can be removed from office by Congress. The United States Constitution specifies that officials are removed from office after being impeached for, and convicted of, "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." A simple majority of the House of Representatives is needed to impeach an official, who can then be removed from office after a trial in the Senate, if two-thirds of the senators vote for removal.

In the history of the United States, only two presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Johnson was impeached over perceived violations of the Tenure of Office Act of 1867, which the Supreme Court later ruled to be unconstitutional. The vote to remove him from office failed by one vote. In 1998, Clinton was impeached for lying to investigators and obstructing justice during the Lewinsky affair; the vote to remove him also failed. A third president, Richard Nixon, would have faced impeachment over the Watergate scandal but resigned before any impeachment vote.