Impeachment is the process by which a legislature brings charges against a civil officer of government for crimes alleged to have been committed, analogous to the bringing of an indictment by a grand jury. This can be either at the federal level or state level. An impeachment proceeding is a formal process by which a sitting president or government official may be accused of wrongdoing. It is to be noted that impeachment is a political process and not a criminal process.
Most impeachments have concerned alleged crimes committed while in office, though there have been a few cases in which officials have been impeached and subsequently convicted for crimes prior to taking office.
It is to be known that according to the law, the impeached official remains in office until a trial is held. That trial, and removal from office if convicted, is separate from the act of impeachment itself. Parliament votes on the proposal by secret ballot, and if two thirds of all representatives agree, the said official is impeached. Once impeached, the official’s powers are suspended and the Constitutional Court decides whether or not the said official should be removed from the office.
According to the constitution, the only penalties allowed to be imposed by the senate are removal from office and disqualification from holding any federal office in future.
In the past, there were attempts to initiate impeachment proceedings against John Tyler, George W. Bush and Barack Obama but, these attempts were not successful and never reached the point.
Currently, impeachment proceedings are being held for Donald Trump, with the president facing vote in the Senate on two articles of impeachment that were approved by the House – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, both of which are tied to the Ukraine scandal and Trump’s urging of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. The articles of impeachment are the list of charges drafted against the official.
In Trump’s case, the House Intelligence Committee was tasked with the investigation and the matter was then turned over to the Judiciary Committee, which drafted the said two articles of impeachment. The process is dictated entirely by the ruling party. A simple majority of the members of the Judiciary Committee was needed for each article to proceed to a vote by the Full House. The House Judiciary Committee consists of 24 democrats and 17 Republicans.
Trump has called the inquiry the continuation of a “witch hunt” that has dogged his presidency and Republicans members of Congress have attacked the process as a sham that disregards the president’s due process rights and impedes his ability to conduct foreign policy.
However the trial is structured, it ends with senators voting on the two “charges” – and Trump’s removal from the office would require 67 “yes” votes on one or both articles. There are currently 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and 2 independents in the Senate, meaning 20 GOP members would have to defect to convict Trump.
If the president were somehow removed from office, the line of succession would be as follows:
Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.