9 things to know about impeachment

Two State Department officials and a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine are scheduled to appear before a House committee this week in the first public hearings in the Trump impeachment probe.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Two State Department officials and a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine are scheduled to appear before a House committee this week in the first public hearings in the Trump impeachment probe.

Read nine things about impeachment below:

1. It's very rare

Content Continues Below

Only two presidents have ever been impeached, neither was removed.  In 1868, President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives for violating the Tenure of Office Act.

Johnson narrowly won his trial in the Senate, remaining in office by just a single vote.  Little more than a century later, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House for lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice.

Like Johnson before him, Clinton was not removed by the Senate, surviving by votes of 45-55 and 50-50 on the two articles of impeachment.

2. Florida split

Florida, along with nine other states, did not have U.S. senators in 1868 due to the aftermath of the Civil War.

But in 1998, Florida’s two U.S. senators voted along party lines, with Republican Connie Mack IV, voting “guilty” on both charges, and Democrat Bob Graham voting “not guilty” on both charges.

3. Ground rules

Article II, section 4 of the U.S. Constitution says, “The president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The Constitution does not define what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors,” leaving that up to the House, where impeachment originates.

While Article I, Section 2, gives the House the sole power of impeachment, it is in Article I, Section 3, where the Senate is given its authority for removal from office.

Establishing that, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court shall preside and that “no Person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present.”

4. Political, not criminal

Impeachment is a political process, not a criminal process.  As such, things like due process do not begin to factor in until the removal phase -- the trial in the Senate.

The House gathers evidence and weighs the possibility of voting on articles of impeachment.  If that happens, then the articles would be sent to the Senate, where the president can expect due process.

In Federalist 65, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “Those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”


5. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott

If the House votes out articles of impeachment, Florida’s two U.S. senators will sit in judgment of the president.  While neither has definitely said how he will vote, both men have given statements on the process thus far.

“I do not believe the circumstances presented today even begin to warrant such an extradentary action,” Scott said.

Rubio said he will make his decision in “the best interest of the country given the facts.”

6. What's happening right now

The House Intelligence Committee is holding open hearings this week and will be allowing the president and his attorneys to cross-examine witnesses.

The Intelligence Committee is chaired by Sen. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is the ranking member.  There are 22 members on the committees -- 13 Democrats and nine Republicans.  U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Orlando, is the only member of the committee from Florida.

7. The next step

Recommendations will be sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which will decide if articles of impeachment will move forward.

The committee is chaired by U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.  The ranking member is U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.  The committee comprises 24 Democrats and 17 Republicans, including five members from Florida -- Democrats Demings, Ted Deutch and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, and Republicans Matt Gaetz and Greg Steube.

8. Timeline

House leadership has not said when a vote could take place, but given recent moves, it is expected that the House could finish its work by the end of the year, setting up a trial in the Senate for early 2020.

Three witnesses are scheduled to testify this week, with at least one more week of testimony next week.

9. Ukraine

The impetus behind the impeachment is the withholding of $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine.

The money was approved by Congress to assist Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression.

On July 18, the Office of Management and Budget revealed that the aid had been frozen.

A partial transcript of a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy showed that Trump asked Zelenskiy to look into the debunked theory that the Democratic National  Committee server was sent by a company called Crowdstrike to the Ukraine, where it was leaked

The conspiracy theory runs counter to U.S. intelligence, which has concluded that Russia hacked the DNC server in 2016.

In the same call, Trump also pressed Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden.

If the Biden investigation and the debunked Crowdstrike investigation were contingent on the release of the aid, lawmakers have said this would represent a quid pro quo (Latin for "a favor for a favor") and would be an impeachable offense.

While Ukraine is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, it is a strategic ally and has made steps to join both the European Union and NATO.