U.S. President Donald Trump is currently in the middle of an impeachment process under the charges of abusing office and obstructing Congress. Although the current president has been officially impeached, he will not face removal from office unless two-thirds of the Senate votes to convict him of the charges.
The impeachment process began in early September, when an anonymous complaint was filed by a member of the intelligence community. A call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump is at the center of the charges. The anonymous source accused the American leader of using the power of his office to seek interference from a foreign power in the upcoming 2020 election.
The details of the accusation are focused upon a $400 million military-aid package offered to Ukraine. It is alleged that Trump used the package as leverage to persuade the Ukrainian government to begin an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian oil and gas company known as Burisma Holdings from 2014 to 2019. Allies of Trump, and allegedly Trump himself, believe that Biden, during his term of Vice President, abused his power to fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son’s involvement within the oil and gas company.
The complaint of Trump’s abuse of power has been corroborated by summarized notes from the White House of the call on July 25 between Zelensky and Trump. A handful of career diplomatic and national security officials are also said to have given sworn testimonies; under oath, other diplomats have provided testimonies against President Trump and his reported attempt to kickstart investigations of Democratic candidates.
The impeachment process is focused on a number of high officials and their roles within the alleged offenses. Other than Trump and Zelensky, Vice President Mike Pence is a person of interest. Pence is alleged to have been used by Trump as a transmitter of information to further pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Jennifer Williams, a State Department official detailed to the Vice President’s office, is also involved due to the fact that she listened to the phone call on July 25. She testified before Congress during the impeachment inquiry. Mick Mulvaney, the acting Chief of Staff, during a press briefing admitted to withholding aid until an investigation was started while Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman also displayed concern to his superiors about the phone call. Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, is the primary line of legal defense.
Other government officials, intelligence community officials and current and former diplomats have given testimonies during the impeachment process.
The House of Representatives, with the information of the phone call and its purpose, passed two articles of impeachment on Dec. 18. The article of impeachment for abuse of power passed by a vote of 230 to 197 to 1 and the obstruction of Congress article passed with a vote of 229 to 198 to 1.
There are two outcomes that may occur which are dependent on the voting of the Senate. If two-thirds of the Senate vote to convict Trump, he will be removed from office. This will be the first time in American history of such an event. If the Senate does not convict Trump on either charge, he will remain in office.
The impeachment trial of Trump began in the Senate on Jan. 21. Chief Justice John Roberts swore in senators on Jan. 16. It will be conducted on a six-day a week basis, starting approximately at 1 p.m. and finishing between 5 and 6 p.m. If Trump’s impeachment follows the same model as 41st President Bill Clinton’s, favored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, opening arguments will be conducted for about 10 days with questions taking three days. It is rumored that Senate Republican leaders are working to shorten the amount of time provided for opening arguments.
The timeline of the impeachment trial is not concrete yet and it is unknown when an official decision will be made.
The trial may be public, since the Senate may choose to conduct closed sessions. Impeachment trial rules prohibit senators from speaking publicly while the trial is in progress.