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December 16, 2019

No US president has ever been ousted through impeachment


December 16, 2019

LAHORE: Although numerous American Presidents including the likes of George Washington, John Tyler, Herbert Hoover, George Bush, Reagan and Obama have been threatened with impeachment by their political adversaries, only two of them, Messrs Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been formally impeached till date during these last 230 years, research shows.

In 1868, President Johnson had come awfully close of being shown the door, but he had barely escaped a guilty verdict by just one vote.

Bill Clinton, on the other hand, had apologized to the country in 1998 for his conduct in the Monica Lewinsky affair, accepting a Congressional censure or rebuke.

In 1993, Clinton and his First Lady, Hillary, were the subject of a Justice Department investigation into the “Whitewater Controversy,” which was a botched business deal from their days in Arkansas. And in 1994, Clinton was sued for sexual harassment by Paula Jones, who claimed Clinton exposed himself to her in a hotel room in 1991.

On December 19, 1998, the House of Representatives voted along party lines to impeach Clinton on two separate counts: perjury and obstruction of justice. But in the ensuing five-week Senate trial, Clinton was acquitted on both counts. However, no White House boss has ever been removed from office through impeachment.

On the other hand, the US Congress has impeached and removed eight federal judges till date. Apart from Johnson and Clinton, only two other US heads of state have faced formal impeachment inquiries in the 435-member House of Representatives, and these Presidents are Richard Nixon and Donald Trump, research further shows. In 1974, despite being complicit in one of the greatest political scandals in U.S. presidential history, Richard Nixon was never impeached. He resigned before the House of Representatives had a chance to impeach him. If he hadn’t quit, Nixon would likely have been the first president ever impeached and removed from office, given the crimes he committed to cover up his involvement in the Watergate break-ins. It goes without saying that removal of a sitting American President is an uphill task, although just a simple majority in the House is all that’s needed to formally impeach a president.

The final stage is the Senate impeachment trial. Only if two-thirds of the Senate finds the President guilty of the crimes laid out in the articles of impeachment, he is removed from office. The Senate has never found any under-trial President guilty. And now the House Judiciary Committee of the American House of Representatives has approved two articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice and abuse of power against country’s incumbent President Donald Trump.

On September 24, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had announced an inquiry into Trump’s alleged efforts to pressurize the President of Ukraine to investigate possible wrongdoings by his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. The decision to authorize the impeachment inquiry came after a leaked phone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July. In this telephonic conversation, Trump had allegedly tied Ukrainian military aid to personal political favors. The White House later released a reconstructed transcript of the phone call, which many Democrats argued demonstrated that Trump had violated the Constitution. Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and labelled the impeachment investigation a "witch-hunt" and "sham,” adding recently that “deep State” was behind the whole move.The Trump case thus marks the fourth time in U.S. history that a President has been the subject of a formal House impeachment investigation.In case the Senate convicts and ousts Trump, sitting American Vice President Mike Pence would assume charge as head of state and complete his former boss’s stipulated term, which is scheduled to end on January 20, 2021.

An “Al-Jazeera” television report states:” Democrats accuse Trump of pressuring Ukraine to open an investigation the president's political rival and former vice president, Joe Biden, who is also a frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic presidential race. They also charge that the president obstructed their investigation by refusing to comply with subpoenas and directing members of his administration to do the same. The impeachment inquiry, launched in September following a whistle-blower complaint, was centred on a July 25 phone call during which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to open an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. ”The media house adds: “There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens. Trump also wanted Zelenskyy to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. At the time of the call, the Trump administration was withholding nearly $400m in Congress-approved military assistance from Ukraine. Citing testimony by current and former US officials, Democrats also accuse Trump of leveraging a White House meeting that Zelenskyy wanted in exchange for the investigations.” The Senate trial procedure:The “Al-Jazeera” maintains: “The chief justice of the US Supreme Court presides over the trial. Senators consider evidence, hear witnesses and vote to acquit or convict the president.

A two-thirds majority vote is required in the 100-member Senate to convict and remove a president from office. A conviction appears unlikely in the case of Trump. The Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. At least 20 Republicans would have to vote with all Democrats and the two independents to remove the president.”One charges against Trump are tabled, the president's lawyers would then respond, leaving Senate with two choices.

The Doha-based media outlet quoted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as saying: “It could go down the path of calling witnesses and basically having another trial; or it could decide - and again, 51 members could make that decision - that they have heard enough and believe they know what would happen and could move to vote on the two articles of impeachment sent over to us by the House. Those are the options. No decisions have been made yet."

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