If you're like me, you're still reeling from the news on Tuesday, Sept. 24, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to open an official impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. In a tweet that same day, the president called the inquiry "presidential harassment," while the White House characterized it as a political move in a statement to Elite Daily. Most people probably never expected this day to come, but before you queue up those memes, there's some important information you should probably know first. So, is an impeachment inquiry the same as an impeachment? Not quite, but it's a start.
The thing is, an impeachment inquiry doesn't guarantee that President Trump will be impeached. Instead, the inquiry simply marks the first step in the impeachment process. Technically speaking, a president (or other government official) isn't considered "impeached" until the House votes to pass articles of impeachment, which are then sent to the Senate for a trial. Only two U.S. presidents, Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson, have actually been impeached, and neither were removed from office. (Although Richard Nixon is popularly discussed as having been impeached, he actually resigned in the face of near-certain impeachment.)
However, the process could be lengthy. Once launching the inquiry, a formal investigation will likely be conducted by the House Judiciary Committee, which could, in turn, lead to a floor vote in the House. So far, Pelosi has not stated whether the proceedings will be taken to the floor, and a lot will likely depend on what, if anything, the inquiries find. In order to officially impeach the president, there must be a full or majority vote from the House. From there, the process moves to the Senate, where there must be at least a two-thirds vote to remove the president from office. So, even though many people might be rubbing their palms in anticipation over Pelosi's announcement, they'll just have to sit tight and wait a little bit longer to see if anything does actually occur, especially since the Republican Party currently controls the Senate.
On Sept. 24, Pelosi publicly announced the formal impeachment inquiry into Trump. "Today, I'm announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry," Pelosi said. "I'm directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry." White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told Elite Daily in a statement that same day that the inquiry represented Democrats' attempting to "weaponize politics." "Nothing new here," Grisham added.
Despite Pelosi only just announcing the impeachment inquiry, House Democrats have had President Trump under a microscope for quite a while now. However, Pelosi had previously pushed back against her party's calls for impeachment, stating there were other ways to hold the president accountable on allegations of misconduct. Well, it looks like the House Speaker has finally changed her tune.
The newly announced inquiry is based on allegations that the president improperly leaned on a foreign government to investigate a political rival. On Sept. 18, The Washington Post reported that an anonymous whistleblower had filed a complaint against Trump for allegedly making a "promise" to a foreign leader. The complaint, which has not been publicly released, also allegedly involved a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump suggested investigating his potential 2020 campaign opponent, Joe Biden. Trump initially dismissed the report as "ridiculous," but on Sept. 25 released a non-verbatim transcript of the conversation with Zelensky, which showed that he had indeed suggested Ukraine investigate Biden. Ahead of the transcript release, Trump took to Twitter to state Democrats should apologize to him after they read the contents of the transcript. He wrote,
Will the Democrats apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President? They should, a perfect call - got them by surprise!
Safe to say, Trump certainly has a lot on his plate to deal with at the moment. The president may claim this inquiry is "presidential harassment" or "a total witch hunt," but it could still mean big changes are on the horizon. However, onlookers will just have to sit back and be patient.