Explainer: how the political trial works and why Donald Trump is unlikely to be removed

WASHINGTON: The United States Senate must hold a trial to consider whether the President Donald Trump he must be removed from office after the House of Representatives voted in December to accuse him of pressuring Ukraine to investigate the former vice president Joe biden , a potential rival in the presidential elections of 2020.

What happens next and why is it unlikely that Trump will be removed from office?

Why the accusation?

The founders of the United States feared that presidents would abuse their powers, so they included in the Constitution a process to dismiss one of their posts.

The president, in accordance with the Constitution, may be removed from office for treason, bribery or other crimes and misdemeanors.

High crimes and misdemeanors have historically covered corruption and abuses of public trust, as opposed to violations of criminal statutes.

Former President Gerald Ford, while in Congress, said: An impeccable crime is what most of the House of Representatives consider it to be at any given time in history.

No president has been dismissed as a direct result of the political trial. One, Richard Nixon, resigned before he could be removed. Two, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were charged by the House but not convicted by the Senate.

How does it work?

The accusation begins in the House, the lower house, which debates and votes on whether to press charges against the president by approving a resolution of political judgment, or articles of political judgment, by a simple majority of the members of the body.

The Constitution gives House leaders broad freedom to decide how to carry out the political trial procedures, legal experts said.

The House Intelligence Committee investigated whether Trump abused his power to pressure Ukraine to open probes that would benefit him politically, keeping weeks of testimony behind closed doors and televised hearings before issuing a formal evidence report.

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee used the report to write formal charges and voted 23-17 along party lines to approve charges against Trump of abuse of power and obstruct attempts by House Democrats to investigate him. .

The House controlled by the Democrats approved both charges on December 18 in votes that fell almost completely in the party lines.

That created a Senate trial controlled by Republicans.

What would a trial in the Senate be like?

The members of the Chamber act as prosecutors; senators as jurors; The president of the United States presides.

Historically, the president has been allowed defense attorneys to call witnesses and request documents.

Beyond that, the test parameters are uncertain at this time. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer is pressing for four Trump aides to testify, including Mick Mulvaney, the White House interim cabinet chief, and John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell threw cold water on that idea and said House Democrats should have obtained the testimony of Bolton and Mulvaney during their investigation.

President of the house Nancy Pelosi He has delayed sending the articles of political judgment to the Senate in an attempt to pressure McConnell. The two sides seem to have made little progress towards an agreement.

Can the Senate refuse to hold a trial?

There is debate about whether the Constitution requires a trial in the Senate. But the Senate rules do indeed require a trial, and McConnell has publicly stated that he will allow it to proceed.

Republicans could try to amend those rules, but that measure is politically risky and considered unlikely, legal experts said.

What is the breakdown of the party in Congress?

The Chamber has 431 members today. Only three of the 233 House Democrats voted against one or both articles of political judgment; One voted present and another did not vote. Among Republicans, 195 voted against both articles and two did not vote. The independent Justin Amash, former Republican, voted for both articles.

In 1998, when Republicans had a majority in the House, the chamber also voted heavily following the party's lines to accuse Clinton, a Democrat.

The Senate now has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who generally vote with Democrats. The conviction and removal of a president would require a two-thirds majority.

That is highly unlikely in this case. No Senate Republican has indicated that he can vote to condemn the leader of his party. If the 100 senators voted, at least 20 Republicans and all Democrats and independents would have to vote against him.

Who becomes president if Trump is removed?

In the unlikely event that the Senate condemns Trump, vice president Mike Pence He would become president for the rest of Trump's term, which ends on January 20, 2021.

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