Donald Trump has been impeached — but what happens next, and does it even matter?
Donald Trump has been impeached. But does it matter?
After an impeachment inquiry that lasted just a matter of weeks and featured testimony from military personnel, key diplomats and State Department figures, the US House of Representatives has voted to impeach Donald Trump.
In the end, Trump was charged with two "high crimes and misdemeanours": abuse of the power of his office and obstruction of Congress. The House of Representatives voted to impeach along party lines, with just two Democrats voting against on the first charge, and three Democrats voting against on the second charge. The background of the charges can be read about here.
Now that Trump is officially impeached, he joins the ranks of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, the only two other American presidents to suffer the same fate.
For now, that doesn't mean much.
The next stage of the process is for Trump to be tried for the above charges in the Senate. Without a conviction in the Senate, a president will not be removed from office. Neither Johnson nor Clinton were ultimately convicted when tried by the Senate and most pundits predict that Trump won't be either.
When the trial concludes, at least 67 of the United States' 100 senators must vote in favour of convicting Trump in order to meet the requisite "supermajority". As things stand, the Senate is dominated by Trump's own Republican party, who hold 53 seats in the chamber.
Almost three years into Trump's presidency, members of his party have shown a resolute reluctance to vote in a way that would displease their president. Trump remains very popular with Republican voters across the United States, so any Republican voting to impeach him would be taking their political life into their own hands. As such, it's unlikely that even a small number of Republicans will vote to impeach, let alone the 20 that the Democrats would need in order to remove Trump from office.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader and Republican stalwart, has made clear that the Senate's trial of the President will be co-ordinated in line with the desires of the White House.
McConnell will largely be in charge of setting the rules of the trial, and has said he believes the impeachment is a political stunt by Trump's opponents. Speaking to Fox News yesterday, he said: "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 to the extent that we can."
His role will involve determining guidelines with regard to evidence, witnesses, duration and arguments. Democrats are hoping to hear testimony from witnesses such as Trump's Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and ex-National Security Advisor John Bolton. Whether or not any witnesses at all are heard will likely be down to McConnell and his Republican cohort.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts will be tasked with presiding over the trial itself.
Trump himself, who was speaking at a rally in Michigan yesterday, joked that "It doesn't feel like I've been impeached," and predicted that the Senate would "do the right thing".
The billionaire businessman is up for re-election in 2020 and the Democrats are currently in the midst of their primaries, the process by which they select their own presidential candidate. Joe Biden currently leads the polls, though he is closely trailed by both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — both Senators who will ultimately have a vote when it comes to Donald Trump's trial in the Senate.