Impeaching Trump to Hold Him Accountable

The Time to Impeach Is Now

Here’s what we know: Donald Trump abused his power as President of the United States and repeatedly tried to obstruct Congress when he got caught.

In December 2019, the House of Representatives formally impeached Trump on two counts: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Impeachment was a grave but necessary consequence, given that Trump is an ongoing threat to our democracy and national security. We know that Trump attempted bribe Ukrainian leaders into digging up dirt on his political opponents in an attempt to gain an advantage in the presidential election. Then, he tried to cover it up by refusing to turn over documents and defying lawful congressional subpoenas. We know he did it because Trump himself has admitted to doing it ON CAMERA, and several high-ranking officials in his administration have confirmed his scheme both under oath in public House committee hearings and in the media. 

Donald Trump is a criminal. These activities are impeachable offenses.

 

Where are we right now?

The House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. On a party-line vote, two articles of impeachment were approved by the full House of Representatives, charging Donald Trump with: 1) abuse of power, and 2) obstruction of Congress.

The case against Trump is obvious. He abused his power as President of the United States when he tried to pressure Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 elections. There is a mountain of evidence, including text messages, transcripts, and witness testimony that proves that Trump tried to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on his political rivals in exchange for about $400 million in aid.  Just because Trump got caught and eventually released that money does not mean he’s innocent.

After Trump got caught, he attempted to cover up his corruption, refusing to turn over critical pieces of evidence and by demanding that White House aides defy lawful subpoenas and refuse to testify in front of the congressional committees charged with investigating him. Congress has the constitutional authority to investigate the executive branch (the president). If the president refuses to participate in a lawful congressional investigation, that’s called obstruction of Congress, and it’s an impeachable offense. 

Here's what happens next: the Senate will take it up and hold an impeachment trial, which could start as soon as next week. Mitch McConnell has already said that he has no plans to hold a legitimate trial. He told Fox News: “Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this.” 

In other words, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are going to rig the rules to help Trump. Instead of defending our democracy, Republicans would rather be accomplices in Trump’s coverup. He also rejected Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s very reasonable proposal that the Senate trial feature testimony from witnesses with direct knowledge of Trump’s misconduct and documents that the White House blocked House committees from viewing.

But Democrats can keep pushing for a fair trial, even after it’s started. They can offer motions for witnesses and evidence throughout the trial, and we need to keep the pressure on the Senate to make sure those motions are adopted.

What are the asks for your members of Congress?

Every Senator should be on the record in support of a fair and open impeachment trial in the Senate.

  • For Democratic senators, demand that they speak out loudly and firmly about the need for a fair and open impeachment trial in the Senate. They should endorse Leader Schumer’s proposal for a fair trial (which you can read in full here).  

  • For Republican senators, remind them of the oath that they took to support and defend the Constitution tell them not to sell out our democracy by helping Trump coverup his corruption. They should agree to Schumer’s proposal. Any Senator who agrees to McConnell’s rigged process is helping Donald Trump get away with it. The Senate needs to fully hear the evidence and hold Trump accountable for his actions.

 

TELL YOUR SENATORS TO SUPPORT A FAIR AND OPEN TRIAL

If you have a Democrat, say thank you and keep it up. If you have a Republican, remind them that the American people deserve to hear the facts of the case and that you’re calling on them to support a fair and open trial. GET THE SCRIPT

TELL YOUR SENATORS TO SUPPORT A FAIR AND OPEN TRIAL

If you have a Democrat, say thank you and keep it up. If you have a Republican, remind them that the American people deserve to hear the facts of the case and that you’re calling on them to support a fair and open trial. GET THE SCRIPT
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2 Things You Can Do On Impeachment Right Now

There are a few things you can do to ramp up the pressure on your MoC to act:

  1. Call your two senators and urge them not to agree to a rigged impeachment trial in the Senate. Again, if you have a Democratic senator, tell them to speak out publicly on the basics of what a fair and open trial looks like. If you have a Republican, remind them that the American people deserve to hear the facts of the case and that you’re calling on them not to help Trump escape accountability by rigging the rules. Here’s a script to help with your calls.

  2. Take control of the narrative, get your member of Congress’ attention, and urge others to get involved by writing a letter to the editor on impeachment. Look, we know letters to the editor aren’t the flashiest tool, but they work. Your member of Congress will see a letter in a hometown newspaper mentioning them or on an issue they’re tracking, and it goes a long way in taking control of the narrative on impeachment. It might also be the difference between your neighbor deciding to pick up the phone and call their representative or senators or not. Submit one right now using our tool here.

Congress 101: How does the impeachment process work?

Only two presidents have been impeached in the history of the United States: Andrew Johnson in 1868, and Bill Clinton in 1998. (Richard Nixon resigned before the full House of Representatives could vote on impeaching him.) So it’s understandable that there’s a lot of confusion about how the process of impeaching a president works! We’re here to try to clear that up so you understand when you have the best opportunity to make a difference by taking action.

In the House

The House is responsible for laying out the charges—the constitution calls these “high crimes and misdemeanors”—against Trump that will form the basis of the impeachment articles. Once the House votes on those articles, those charges will become the subject of the impeachment trial, which takes place in the Senate.  

The House has already made its first move toward impeachment: launching a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump. This was an important step because being in an impeachment stance gives House committees a stronger case for getting the courts to move quickly to rule in their favor in some of the cases where Trump has been stonewalling their investigations for months, like refusing to turn his tax returns over to the Ways and Means Committee.

The next step is for the Judiciary Committee to draft articles of impeachment, which they are hoping to do by Thanksgiving. Each article is essentially a charge of a “high crime or misdemeanor” for which Trump should be impeached. Aside from the Ukraine scandal, these articles could include things like Trump’s obstruction of justice and of Congress, his acceptance of emoluments from foreign governments, his human rights abuses at the border, his offer or pardons to members of his campaign and administration who committed crimes, and more.

Once the articles of impeachment are drafted, the House can vote to send each article to the Senate after debate with a simple majority. There is no upper or lower limit on the number of articles of impeachment they have to vote on, but there should be enough that they can paint a compelling picture of Trump’s astounding abuses of power and corruption since taking office.

Finally, once they have voted to impeach Trump for one or more articles, the House will appoint managers to essentially serve as prosecutors for the trial in the Senate. During the Clinton impeachment, every House manager was a Republican sitting on the Judiciary Committee (including now-Senator Lindsey Graham). This time around, Democrats should make sure that they select House managers who can present a compelling case against Trump based on the evidence they assemble in support of their articles of impeachment.

In the Senate

Once the House has laid out the charges against Trump, the Senate is responsible for being the court where he will be tried on those charges. Mitch McConnell has already said that he will have to hold a trial if the House votes to impeach Trump, but that is hardly the end of the fight.

There are plenty of ways that McConnell could try to protect Trump (and vulnerable Republican senators who don’t want to take hard votes) by preventing a fair and open trial in the Senate. For example, a simple majority of senators could vote to exclude incriminating evidence against Trump from the proceedings, or they could vote to demand testimony from unrelated actors in an effort to muddy the waters (e.g. they could demand that Joe and Hunter Biden come testify about Trump’s nonsense accusations against them). That’s why it’s so important that Senators commit ahead of time to holding a fair and open trial. Here is a great explainer from our friends at Public Citizen about what a fair and open trial looks like in the Senate.

Once the trial is over, the Senate will deliberate in private, then hold a vote on each article of impeachment. Each article requires a two-thirds majority in order to convict Trump. If any one article is approved with a two-thirds majority, Trump would be automatically removed from office and Mike Pence would be sworn in as the new president, per the 25th Amendment. (Pence would also have to pick a new Vice President.) There are no criminal penalties associated with conviction, but if Trump were removed it would also mean that he would be able to be prosecuted by the criminal justice system for his other crimes since he would no longer be protected by the office of the presidency.

 
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Background: What’s the scandal over Ukraine about?

The short version is that Trump was withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid from Ukraine without providing any justification to Congress, at the same time that he was urging the Ukrainian government to launch a sham investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Then, when a whistleblower went to the intelligence community’s Inspector General (IG) with concerns, the administration blocked the IG from going to Congress with the details of the whistleblower’s complaint (which was likely a violation of the law in itself). The Washington Post has a timeline of the scandal that you can read here.

So there are two layers here: the first, which is Trump’s abuse of power in trying to use U.S. government funds to get a foreign country to intervene in our election to his benefit (sound at all familiar?); and the second, which is his obstruction of Congress’s oversight responsibilities to cover up his own wrongdoing (again — sound at all familiar?). 

The difference this time is that MoCs decided this was the last straw, and started publicly coming out in support of impeachment—but in order to guarantee that the investigation is robust and appropriately conducted, you still need to make your voice heard.

 

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