Impeachment: the act of calling into question the integrity or validity of something, including the integrity and validity of presidents and other elected officials. There have only been two U.S. presidents who have been impeached prior to now, including Andrew Johnson, who was charged with eleven articles of impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and Bill Clinton, who faced three articles of impeachment, including perjury, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power.
A phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was the gateway to President Trump’s impeachment. The two leaders were having a discussion when Trump asked Zelinsky for a favor—to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate to challenge Trump in the 2020 elections, and Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Since the end of the Cold War, Ukraine has been looking to countries like the United States for resources to resist encroachments by neighboring Russia, a major player in the Cold War. The United States has provided military and monetary aid to Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union, but President Trump halted this aid prior to this phone call and only released it after a whistleblower complaint about the phone call was released in late 2019. During this phone call, President Trump appears to have asked President Zelinsky to announce an investigation into the Bidens in exchange for the aid being released. Once news of this broke via the aforementioned whistleblower complaint, the House of Representatives launched an investigation into whether or not Trump abused his presidential powers to try to convince the Ukrainian president to launch the investigation.
The House ultimately charged President Donald Trump with two articles of impeachment, including abuse of power—for pressuring the Ukrainian president to help him in his re-election campaign by announcing an investigation that would damage his political rival—and obstruction of Congress, for blocking witnesses from testifying and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas.
During the House impeachment vote, 427 of the 435 House members voted, 230 for impeachment and 197 against, including one member that voted in favor of the obstruction of Congress article but not for abuse of power. To the surprise of many, some Democratic Representatives voted against the articles, including Representative Jeff Van Drew, who announced shortly thereafter that he will be joining the Republican party in the near future.
On December 18, 2019, President Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives, mostly along party lines. However, impeachment by the House does not mean removal from office, because once the House delivered the articles to the Senate, the Senate was tasked with holding the trial to decide the President’s fate.
After the House impeachment officers—members of the majority party chosen to prosecute the case in the Senate—delivered the articles to the other chamber, the Senate quickly voted not to hear testimony from witnesses or to subpoena additional documents, meaning that the next step was to vote to acquit or convict the President.
The Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump on February 5, 2020, a vote which fell along party lines, a notable exception being Mitt Romney, the only Republican Senator to vote in favor of conviction. The impact of this trial on the 2020 elections is already being felt by the Democratic candidates who were called back to Washington to serve as jurors in the trial, though the ultimate ramifications have yet to be fully known.