The Impeachment Inquiry

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Did you say impeachment ? 

The process of impeachment is established by the United States Constitution. It is a formal accusation that launches a trial* which could end in conviction* or acquittal*. Any civil Officer may be impeached and removed from office if convicted of « Treason, Bribery*, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors », up to and including the President.

The process

Only the House of Representatives has the power to actually initiate the process. It begins by referring the matter to a Committee which reviews the accusations, and examines the evidence*, before passing a resolution listing the charges, or « Articles of Impeachment ». If passed by the House, the Articles of Impeachment are then considered by the Senate in a trial. If the Senate votes in favor of conviction by a two-third supermajority vote, it will then vote to remove the official from office.

What happened ?

A presidential phone call

In a July 25 phone call, United States President Donald Trump urged the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to consider investigating Joe Biden, the former vice president and Democratic rival in the coming election. 

A mysterious whistle-blower

An anonymous whistle-blower*, a C.I.A officer who once worked at the White House, accused President Trump of illegally soliciting a foreign campaign contribution, and White House officials of covering it up. The whistle-blower’s complaint claims that White House lawyers told officials to move the transcript of the call into a separate system normally used for classified information that has national security implications. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi then announced an impeachment inquiry into President Trump, on September 26th. House leaders threatened to subpoena* the White House if it refused to hand over some records related to the impeachment inquiry. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Adam Schiff warned that any attempt to stonewall* the House’s request or intimidate witnesses* would be construed as obstruction worthy of the impeachment itself. 

How did Trump react ?

You guessed it, President Trump called the investigation a hoax* and threatened vaguely to bring « a massive lawsuit » in retaliation*.

What now ?

President Trump announced, via a letter signed by the White House counsel, that he would not cooperate in any way with the impeachment inquiry. This has led to a constitutional crisis. Impeaching a president for refusing to participate in an impeachment inquiry is a kind of meta-impeachment, so Constitution does not provide a clear answer to the problem. Moreover, neither of the key actors seems prepared to back down. There is no simple resolution available for this confrontation between the House and the president, unless a third branch of government comes in to resolve it. That is… the Supreme Court. 

Mazioud Selma

Sources : New York Times, The Guardian, ThoughtCo

Vocab

Conviction = condamnation 

Trial = procès

Acquittal = acquittement

Bribery = corruption

Evidence = preuve

Whistle-blower = dénonciateur

Subpoena = assigner à comparaître

Stonewall = faire obstruction à 

Witness = témoin

Hoax = canular

Retaliation = représailles

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