How do you impeach a president of the United States?

Who’s asking? Well, almost everyone after the fierce controversy stimulated by the book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff.

The short answer is: it’s not easy (and I guess it shouldn’t be).

The longer answer is:

The House of Representatives has the sole power of initiating impeachment charges, while the Senate has the sole power to try all such impeachments. Two U.S. Presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives but acquitted at the trials held by the Senate: Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1999). Richard Nixon resigned before he would certainly have been impeached (1974).

In the case of the decisions of the House and the Senate respectively, a majority vote is sufficient. But the problem is that, when the Founding Fathers devised the U.S. Constitution, there were no established political parties and it was assumed that, in any debates on impeachment, elected representatives would vote on the evidence and not simply on party political lines.

Today the Republican and Democratic Parties are tight caucuses and, in any impeachment debate, almost certainly almost everyone would vote on party lines.

Currently the Republicans control both the House and the Senate. There are mid-term elections in November when all of the House seats and a third of the Senate seats will be up for re-election. So, what are the prospects of the Democrats winning control of the two chambers?

To regain control of the House, Democrats have to win back 24 of the 435 seats. But to do this, they have to overcome both gerrymandering which favours the Republicans and the tendency of Democratic voters to cluster in liberal cities which also favours the Republicans.

In the Senate elections, 25 of the 33 seats up for re-election are already held by Democrats or independents who caucus with them. Even if they all hold their seats and the Democrats manage to take Nevada and Arizona, that would still leave the Republicans with 50 seats, enough to maintain control, thanks to Vice-Presdient Mike Pence having the casting vote. If the Democrats could take Tennessee or Texas, that would be different …

So statistically the chances are that, post November, Republicans will still control both Houses or at least the Senate which makes impeachment any time soon an outside possibility. That leaves the option of removal through incapacity (the 25th amendment) or resignation by Trump who is famously impetuous and a notorious flip-flopper. But don’t bank on any of these options. Sorry …


  • Michael Grace

    Removing Trump would just put someone even worse in charge, Mike Pence. He is a devious, white-wing Christian Nationalist and former radio hate-talk show host whose approval rating as governor of GOP-leaning Indiana was so low that he wasn’t going to run for another term. Trump saved his political career.

  • Roger Darlington

    So do we want to keep Trump in the White House?!?


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