How did we get here: Why Democrats decided to start an impeachment inquiry into Trump
The inquiry was launched on Sept. 24 after a whistleblower contacted members of Congress with concerns about a phone call Trump made in July to the president of Ukraine.
"The actions of the Trump presidency revealed a dishonorable fact of the president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections," Pelosi, D-California, said in announcing the beginning of the inquiry.
The phone call, according to Trump critics, had the president leveraging his power to hold $400 million in aid to Ukraine in exchange for information on Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Trump, on the other hand, says the call congratulating Volodymyr Zelensky on becoming president of Ukraine was "perfect," and what he talked to the Ukrainian leader about has been misinterpreted.
Trump has claimed that Hunter Biden profited from an affiliation with a Ukrainian energy company when he sat on its board of directors. Trump says when Hunter Biden’s position on the board was threatened by a prosecutor in Ukraine looking into the company’s dealings, Joe Biden pressured Ukrainian officials to have the prosecutor fired.
Neither Biden has been officially accused of wrongdoing. However, George Kent, a career State Department official, told a House committee this week that he raised concerns with a senior official in President Barack Obama's administration in 2015 over Hunter Biden's position on the board of the Ukrainian gas company. Kent said he told the official that Biden's involvement could present a conflict of interest for the administration.
Who’s who in the whistleblower complaint?
From the president's personal attorney to the Ukrainian leaders, the list connected to the whistleblower is diverse. Click here to see who we know is involved so far.
Here’s the transcript of Trump’s Ukrainian call
On Sept. 25, Trump ordered the release of a rough transcript of the call with Zelensky. Click here to read it.
With witnesses giving depositions to Congress, is impeachment going on now?
Practically, yes, but technically, no. What is happening now is considered an impeachment inquiry, not impeachment proceedings, according to House Democrats.
Should they decide after interviewing witnesses that there is enough evidence to call for Trump to be impeached, then they will compile articles of impeachment – a list of alleged abuses by the president – and that will signal the official start of impeachment, House leaders have said.
Republicans have complained that the process which has three House committees interviewing witnesses is flawed since the House has not voted as a body to authorize an impeachment investigation. Democrats have argued that such a vote is not needed because the Constitution gives the House discretion to conduct the impeachment process any way it sees fit.<br/>House Democrats are preparing to move the private impeachment inquiry more into a public setting "as soon as mid-November and are already grappling with how best to present the complex Ukraine saga to the American people," according to the Washington Post.
Only two U.S. presidents have been impeached by the House – Andrew Johnson in the 1860s and Bill Clinton in the 1990s.<br/>President Richard Nixon faced an impeachment inquiry in the 1970s. He resigned before formal impeachment proceedings got underway in the House.
What is the timeline for impeachment?
According to some reporting, Democratic leaders wanted to conclude the investigation into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and draw up articles of impeachment for a vote by Thanksgiving. However, that scenario may change as more people are called to testify.
The New York Times is reporting that the vote may take place closer to Christmas.
Who has been called to testify in the inquiry?
Here is a list of who we know has been subpoenaed to either appear before Congress or turn over documents to the investigating committees. Some have appeared before committees and others have declined to:
- Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union - appeared
- Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine - appeared
- George P. Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine - appeared
- Marie "Masha" Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine - appeared
- Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo - appeared
- Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian affairs
- William "Bill" Taylor, acting ambassador to Ukraine - appeared
- Fiona Hill, former senior official for Russia and Europe on the National Security Council - appeared
- Suriya Jayanti, foreign service officer
- Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs
- Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia - appeared
- Russell Vought, deputy director of OMB
- Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs at OMB
- Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence - appeared
- Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the intelligence community - appeared
- T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, State Department counselor
- Alexander Vindman, national security council director for European affairs
- Rick Perry, Energy secretary
- Mark Esper, Defense secretary
- Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney
- Mike Pompeo, secretary of State
- Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff
- Mike Pence, vice president of the United States
How does impeachment work?
A president can be impeached by the House of Representatives with a majority vote. When a president is impeached by the House, the articles of impeachment – a list of alleged wrongdoings – are then sent to the Senate for a trial of sorts. From there, a president can be removed from office, or not. Read more about it here.
So, will the Senate remove Trump from office if he is impeached?
That would be a big hurdle for Democrats who want Trump out of office. There are 53 Republican senators, 45 Democratic senators and two Independent senators who generally vote with the Democrats. So that’s 53 to 47 if everyone votes along party lines.
To remove a president from office, it takes 67 Senate votes.
Could Trump run again in 2020 even if he’s impeached?
Yes, he can if he is impeached by the House. If he is impeached by the House then removed from office by the Senate he can run again in 2020 if the Senate does not remove him and ban him from ever running again. Click here to read more about it.