Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced this week that the House of Representatives would initiate a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump could become only the fourth president in American history to face impeachment. Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate. President Nixon resigned as the House was preparing an impeachment vote.
This announcement is both historic and momentous. In his introduction to Impeachment: An American History, Jeffrey A. Engle writes that impeachment “disrupts the American political landscape as few other events do, leaving scars forever dimming the political careers for all involved.”
How does impeachment work?
The Wall Street Journal explains that the impeachment process “generally includes a House investigation, hearings, and a markup of articles of impeachment, or written accusations.” Traditionally, such articles have been drafted by the Judiciary Committee.
Once cleared by that committee, they are immediately considered on the House floor. A simple majority is required for impeachment.
Three types of conduct are typically seen as constituting grounds for impeachment: abusing or exceeding the powers of the office, behavior incompatible with the function or purpose of the office, or misusing the office for an improper purpose or for personal gain.
If the House impeaches Mr. Trump, House managers will then be selected to make their case before the Senate. A two-thirds majority is required to convict the president and remove him from office.
However, as CNN notes, Senate Republicans likely have the votes to easily dismiss the charges. With the current party split, twenty Republicans would have to join every Democrat in the Senate in voting to remove the president.
The process could take months. Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, says he hopes to conclude their work by the end of the year. If the House then votes to impeach, the trial in the Senate could take many weeks. For instance, the House approved an impeachment inquiry for President Clinton on October 8, 1998, but the Senate did not acquit him until February 12, 1999.
What led to this decision?
Six House committees are already investigating elements of the Trump administration. However, the tipping point came with President Trump’s July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Democratic leaders allege that Mr. Trump betrayed his oath of office and undermined national security during this call by seeking to enlist a foreign power to tarnish a rival for personal political gain.
They claim that Mr. Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. During the Obama administration, Vice President Biden worked with the Ukrainian government at a time when his son served on the board of the country’s largest private gas company (a position for which he was reportedly paid up to $50,000 a month).
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s attorney, has alleged that Vice President Biden worked to protect his son from corruption investigations. Democratic leaders in the House claim that Mr. Trump tried to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens so as to benefit the president personally.
They also note that he withheld $391 million in military aid approved by Congress one week before the phone call. A so-called “whistleblower” reported his or her concerns about the July 25 conversation, prompting the investigations that followed.
Mr. Trump states that he withheld the funds to encourage other countries to support Ukraine and that there was no “quid pro quo” in his July 25 conversation. He authorized the release of the “fully declassified and unredacted transcript” of his conversation with President Zelensky, which you can read here.
The whistleblower’s complaint was hand-delivered to Capitol Hill yesterday for lawmakers to review. The person has tentatively agreed to meet with congressional lawmakers. The White House claims that this person has “political bias” in favor of a “rival candidate” of the president.
Two biblical imperatives
Studies indicate that Congress is more polarized today than at any time since the Civil War. Pew Research Center has documented an ever-widening gap between Democrats and Republicans in America on a variety of social issues. I assume Americans will be just as divided over the impeachment inquiry, with the president’s critics supporting his impeachment and his supporters opposing such action.
The purpose of The Daily Article is not to provide personal or political commentary but to offer a biblical perspective on the news and cultural issues. In that context, I believe this acrimonious time is an opportunity for those whose highest allegiance is not to a president or a political party but to their King.
Whatever our view of President Trump or his opponents, let’s remember two biblical imperatives as the impeachment inquiry proceeds.
One: We are called to pray for our leaders and respect their office even if we do not respect the person (1 Timothy 2:1–2). This principle applies to leaders of both parties across the political spectrum. If they are in public office, they are to receive our intercession.
Two: We are to speak truth in ways that glorify God and advance the common good. This verse is a perpetual command from the Lord: “When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you” (Ephesians 4:29 NCV). Such speech will be a powerful witness in these polarizing days.
Frederick Buechner: “If you want to be holy, be kind.”
How holy will you be today?