The “impeachment” of a president or other high official of government means that a statement of charges has been levelled against the individual by the House as the first step towards possible removal from office.
The House must first pass, by a simple majority of those present, articles of impeachment, which are the formal allegations. Upon passage by the House, the defendant has then been "impeached". Conviction comes later in the process.
As things stand, just 24 of the current 240 Republican House members would need to join all 194 Democrats (assuming they vote to impeach as a bloc) for a simple majority to impeach President Trump.
Following impeachment, it is then the Senate that tries the accused. In the case of an impeached president, a conviction requires that two-thirds of the senators present must so vote.
Therefore, in the Senate, conviction and removal from office of Trump would require the approval of 67 senators, meaning that at least 19 of the current 52 Republican senators would need to join all 48 Democratic senators (assuming they vote for conviction as a bloc) in voting for conviction.
Without the guilty vote by two-thirds or more of the senators, the defendant is acquitted and no punishment is imposed. This is what occurred in the President Clinton impeachment trial. As for President Nixon, he resigned from office when facing the prospect of impeachment.
It’s also worth noting that in the United States, the act of impeachment was originally intended to apply to those who may have committed "high crimes and misdemeanors”.
They sound like criminal acts. However, impeachment is nowadays not so much used to determine the criminal guilt or innocence of the person being impeached. Instead, the question is whether the acts committed are considered serious enough to merit their being removed from office.
Or, as President Gerald Ford once put it “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history”.
What are the chances of Trump being impeached, convicted, and removed from office?
It may take time, but I feel that if he continues with his outrageous and undisciplined behaviour, there will eventually be sufficient Republican members of the House embarrassed and fearful enough to impeach him.
When you think about it, it is not unreasonable to expect that 24 or more of the current 240 Republican members of the House could turn against Trump, even with its cadre of Tea Party and other far right members.
And as for the Senate, which seem to be wiser and generally more intolerant of Trump’s antics, half of the needed 19 senators to jump ship seem poised to do so already.
Of course, Trump could avoid all this bother by resigning now, declaring a victory, and picking up his toys and leaving the sand-box. And that would be totally in character.
Alan Walter is a retired professional engineer living in Oxford. He was born in Wales and
worked in Halifax. He spends much of his time in Oxford, where he operates a small farm. He can be reached at email@example.com.