Donald Trump impeached? How the midterm election results could affect his presidency

The Democrats have taken back control of the House of Representatives in a tense midterm election battle, once again raising questions over the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump.

The US commander-in-chief has dodged numerous calls to be removed from office in the two years since he was elected as president.

Ever since he won the 2016 election, critics have accused him of reached power through political dark arts, Russian backers and a tilted voting system which is not completely representative of the public.

He faced heat after his former lawyer and campaign chief were both found guilty of violating campaign finance laws and was embroiled in a scandal over the payment of “hush money” to porn star Stormy Daniels

Donald Trump at a rally in Indiana (AP)

A possible impeachment may have hinged on a huge political shift in the American government. So what does the outcome of the midterm elections mean for the President’s?

Voters cast their ballots in America ahead of the midterm elections (AFP/Getty Images)

What is impeachment?

Impeachment in the United States is the process by which charges are brought against a civil officer in Congress, including the President, which will form the basis for a trial and possible removal from office.

The US constitution states: “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 Misdemeanours.”

It is not a criminal trial – fines and potential jail time for crimes committed while in office are left to civil courts.

Democrat supporters cheer as they learn candidate from Kansas Sharice Davids wins her race for a seat in the House of Representatives. The Democrats took control of the House from Republicans in the midterm elections yesterday. (EPA)

The process of impeachment

The process of impeachment has to start from the lower chamber of Congress, known as the House of Representatives. It will then move to the upper chamber, known as the Senate. 

Article 1, section 2 of the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to impeach (make formal charges against) officials.

While Article 1, section 3 of the Constitution gives the Senate the sole power to try impeachments.

This means that the House must accuse the president of one offence, which needs a simple majority of the 435 members to pass.

The trial will then be held in the Senate, with a two-thirds majority of the 100 senators required.

Who has been impeached?

Only two presidents have ever actually been impeached.

Former US president Bill Clinton was impeached (AFP/Getty Images)

Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, was impeached in December 1998 on the grounds of lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstruction of justice. 

This came after he lied about the nature of his affair with Monica Lewinsky and then allegedly asked her to lie about it as well.

The House voted 228 to 206 in favour of impeaching the president for the first charge, and 221 to 212 on the second.

Mr Clinton was subsequently acquitted of these charges by the Senate in February 1999, and remained in office.

The second president to have been impeached was Andrew Johnson, the 17th person to hold the role.

He was impeached by the House in in 1868 on charges of criminal disregard for his office and accepting payments in exchange for making official appointments.

The Democrat president had clashed with Congress over his ideology in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

He had formulated a plan of reconstruction, the rebuilding of the southern states after the South’s defeat in the war. 

Richard Nixon was not impeached, rather he resigned following the Watergate scandal (Getty Images)

Richard Nixon, the former president who was at the centre of the Watergate corruption scandal, was not impeached by the House, as is often stated. 

He resigned from the presidency before there was a trial of impeachment.

So how likely is it that Trump could be impeached? 

Last year, a half-dozen Democrats introduced articles of impeachment against Trump, accusing him of obstruction of justice related to the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. But Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement saying that it was not the time to consider articles of impeachment.

However, “the chances of a president being removed from official are small to nil,” as one researcher in US politics at the University of Toronto, John McAndrews, said previously.

American media was stating in August that impeachment could be back on the cards if Democrats took back the House of Representatives. There were a half a dozen articles of impeachment against Trump, accusing him of obstruction of justice related to the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

But Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said it was “not the time” to consider articles of impeachment.

The House could vote to charge Mr Trump, but then they would need to take their vote to the Senate, which the Republicans still control.

Does that mean Trump is not in danger?

Keeping the Senate could be crucial to maintaining the Oval Office, as Robert Singh, Professor of Politics at Birkbeck, told the Standard.

“As long as Trump keeps one-third of the Senate on his side (34 senators), he’ll survive”, said Prof. Singh.

“Barring some dramatic collapse of support among ordinary Republicans, he is in little danger.

“A lot of people think [impeachment] is a legal thing, but it’s a completely political act.”

The lecturer said it is in the Republicans own “interest” to support Mr Trump, who in July tweeted that a poll said his approval rating was more than 90 per cent among his own party.

“For most it’s not in their own interest to go against Trump because they don’t want to lose their own voters,” he added.

Is there any other other way a president can be removed from office?

Yes. The 25th amendment, created following John F Kennedy’s assassination, provides the procedures for replacing the president or vice president in the event of death, removal, resignation, or incapacitation.

It means that the vice-president and a majority of Congress may remove the president if he is seen unfit to carry out office. 

The vice-president then becomes acting president.

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