The Democrats want to remove President Trump from office. But time is pressing, the outcome is uncertain. Kcould the impeachment procedure also become dangerous to the new President Joe Biden?
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The Democrats want to remove President Donald Trump from office. The 74-year-old’s time as US President is almost up anyway, and Joe Biden will take over the business on January 20. The goal of the Democrats is: “Never again Trump”. If the impeachment process sought by the Democrats ends successfully, Trump will also be banned from future government offices. He could forget about running for the presidency again in 2024.
Accusation: incitement to “insurrection or rebellion”
In their indictment, the Democrats accuse Trump of instigating an “uprising or rebellion” against the US. Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol on January 6th. Five people died in the wake of the unrest, MPs were evacuated, and journalists threatened and attacked. Trump is said to have incited his supporters to storm the Capitol – that’s how the Democrats see it, and that’s how many observers see it.
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It is already the second impeachment proceedings that the Democrats are launching against Trump: From the end of 2019, an investigation focused on his role in the Ukraine affair. Democrats alleged abuse of power and obstruction of investigations. The trial failed, and the Republican-dominated Senate ultimately acquitted Trump on all counts.
This time around, the Democrats have a better chance of success. There is great horror and outrage over the unrest at the Capitol. First Republicans position themselves against Trump. In an unusually political statement on Wednesday, the General Staff of the US Armed Forces strongly condemned the storming of the building by supporters of Trump. The top generals emphasized what Trump did not want to admit for so long: On January 20, Joe Biden would be sworn in as the future US president and thus become the next commander in chief of the armed forces.
An inauguration of the new president while the old one is impeached? That has never happened before. Before Trump, impeachment proceedings were brought against a president only three times in American history: in 1998 against Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky affair, in 1974 against Richard Nixon in the Watergate affair and in 1868 against Andrew Johnson for disregarding the rights of Congress.
One thing is already clear: the USA is facing chaotic weeks. How the process turns out and how much it affects the start of a new Joe Biden and Kamala Harris government depends on important deadlines. An overview of the shaky timetable for the next few weeks:
Vote on Wednesday: Controversial even among Democrats
Several steps are necessary to remove the president from office. The first went to the Democrats on Monday, when they introduced a resolution indicting Trump in the House of Representatives. This Wednesday evening (German time) the House of Representatives is to vote on the official opening of impeachment proceedings. The Democrats want to skip the usual hearings and examinations by the judiciary committee before the opening of the procedure. They argue with the seriousness of Trump’s acts – and with the fact that they took place in public.
The Democrats don’t have to rely on the Republicans to get the process started – they hold the necessary simple majority in the House of Representatives. It is therefore relatively certain that the vote will end this Wednesday with a decision for the impeachment opening. Even with the Democrats, the process is not undisputed. Some fear that the hearings and discussions could overshadow Biden’s first few days in office.
Failed on the expressway
In parallel, the Democrats had tried an even faster way. They wanted to get Trump’s immediate dismissal through an amendment to the constitution. Article 25 of the Constitution allows the President to be declared incapable of “exercising the rights and duties of office”. US Vice President Mike Pence, who should have initiated this together with members of the cabinet, officially rejected such a step on Tuesday evening (local time). Pence said it was not in the nation’s interest or in accordance with the Constitution and would set a “terrible precedent.”
Option 1: Transfer on January 19th
After the opening by the House of Representatives, the US Senate will decide on the bill. The new Senate will not meet for the first time until January 19, one day before Biden’s inauguration. When Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, will hand over the case is still unclear. If she ordered the rendition directly on January 19, the process would begin the following day – the day Joe Biden was inaugurated.
Variant 2: Investigation if Trump is no longer in office
It is more likely that the Democrats will wait before submitting it to the Senate – especially to give Biden a good start with the Senate fully focused. Democratic MP Jim Clyburn suggested giving Biden 100 days to get things going – and only then forward the Impeachment article. Biden has also spoken out in favor of wanting to start work with his government as soon as possible and not delay it through impeachment. It is legally possible to continue the process against Trump and to convict him even after he is no longer in office.
Senate decision: Republican votes needed
In order for Trump to actually be removed from office, a two-thirds majority is needed in the Senate. In addition to the 50 Democratic MPs, 17 Republicans would have to turn against him. That is considered difficult, but experts do not consider it impossible given the current mood. Another decisive factor is how much time elapses before impeachment and how the public mood changes by then.
At the preliminary decision in the House of Representatives this Wednesday, the first Republican celebrities want to stand against Trump: New York MPs John Katko and Liz Cheney, number three of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, announced in advance that they would vote for an indictment.