House lawmakers approved a resolution Thursday that sets up the next phase of their impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Amid the daily influx of new developments and witness testimonies it can be easy to get lost. Here we tackle some of your burning questions:
1) Did the president just get impeached?
No. The resolution approved by lawmakers formalizes the impeachment inquiry process and offers a roadmap for how to move forward with public hearings. The Constitution does not require a House vote for the inquiry to move forward, but Republican critics have demanded one.
2) Will Trump receive due process?
“Due process” is the idea that there should be checks on the government’s authority to take away a person’s life, liberty or property. It is meant to ensure fair legal proceedings, said Kim Wehle, a former assistant U.S. attorney and author of “How to Read the Constitution–and Why.”
Republican lawmakers argue procedures laid out by the House resolution are unfair. One of the most vocal critics, Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.) noted the inability of the president’s counsel to participate in the Intelligence Committee’s portion of the inquiry. However, since the Constitution does not prescribe a specific format for an impeachment process, “the House gets to call the shots. There are no rules on this,” Wehle said. Essentially, a fair impeachment process is whatever House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats say it is, since they control the majority.
3) What happens next?
Lawmakers, led by Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, will continue to investigate and gather information to determine whether President Trump committed impeachable offenses in his dealings with Ukraine. According to the resolution, the House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, Chairman Adam Schiff, and top Republican, ranking member Devin Nunes, each have the opportunity to question witnesses or use staff lawyers. Both sides can issue subpoenas for witness testimony or relevant documents, but Republicans will have to get approval from Schiff. If Schiff disagrees, then the full committee (controlled by Democrats) will vote.
Subpoena power for Republicans is a “big concession” from Democrats, said Julian Zelizer, a historian with Princeton University.
“[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi in this case has made enough concessions that she can say she is not excluding them,” Zelizer said. “
After collecting evidence, lawmakers will pass the information on to the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee, led by Democratic Chairman Jerry Nadler, will have the opportunity to consider additional material brought by its members and the president’s legal team. During this stage, Trump’s counsel can comment on evidence and question witnesses. They can also request a subpoena to compel witness testimony — though a request would need either Nadler’s approval or a committee vote, according to the resolution. The Judiciary Committee would then determine whether to bring articles of impeachment. If articles are drafted, they would be presented to the full House for a vote.
4) If he’s impeached, will Trump be removed from office?
Most likely not. Removal of a sitting president takes place in the Senate, not the House. If Trump is impeached, the Senate will hold a trial, overseen by Chief Justice John Roberts, to determine whether to remove him from office. Removal requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate — or 67 senators. However, Republicans have a majority, with 53 votes, and it is unlikely that many GOP lawmakers would abandon Trump.
5) Will Trump go to jail if impeached?
No, impeachment is not a criminal process. While the Constitution does not specify whether a sitting president can be criminally prosecuted, it is Justice Department policy that such a prosecution would undermine the executive branch.
In lieu of criminal charges, the Constitution allows Congress to impeach and remove a president. Doing so is a political gamble for Democrats. Former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment was perceived to be rushed and partisan by the public. It is unknown how today’s impeachment process, coming right before a reelection campaign, will be received by voters.