The House of Representatives is launching an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. What happens now?
On September 24, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives will launch impeachment proceedings against President Trump. Trump will become the fourth president in American history to face an impeachment inquiry.
"The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution," Pelosi said. Trump, she added, "must be held accountable-no one is above the law."
The decision was prompted by new allegations that Trump tried to elicit a foreign power's help in his re-election by pressuring the president of Ukraine to open a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden; Biden is a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. President Trump has denied any wrongdoing and called the impeachment inquiry "presidential harassment."
The constitutional process for trying to remove a president from office is complicated. Here's a look at how impeachment works.
What is impeachment?
The Constitution permits Congress to remove presidents before their term is up if they're found to have committed "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." Impeachment is the first step in that process.
The Framers established impeachment as a safeguard against a president abusing the office. Having just fought for independence from the tyranny of King George III, they worried about presidents becoming too powerful. So they divided the federal government into three branches-executive, legislative, and judicial-that have the ability to check one another's power, and they gave the House of Representatives "the sole power of impeachment."
What are 'high crimes and misdemeanors'?
There's no easy answer, because the Constitution doesn't actually say. The Framers specifically mentioned treason and bribery as impeachable offenses but didn't list the "other high crimes and misdemeanors. "
However, most people take the phrase to mean a serious abuse of power or grave misconduct in office. It doesn't necessarily mean that a law was broken.
Constitutional scholars still debate the vague phrase's meaning. But they often look to Alexander Hamilton's writings for guidance. In one of the Federalist Papers in 1788, he described impeachable offenses as those "which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust."...