On Wednesday, the United States House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump after accusing the president of inciting insurrection ahead of last week’s storming of the Capitol in Washington DC.
It was an historic moment. Trump became the first president to be impeached twice.
But despite the seriousness of the charge, and Republicans breaking ranks with Trump to back the impeachment efforts, it’s unclear whether the outgoing commander-in-chief will face a formal punishment for his actions beyond another stain on his record.
What happens next?
Now the House, the lower chamber of Congress, has voted to impeach, the Article of Impeachment moves to the (for now) Republican-controlled Senate where Trump will face a trial. Senators will act as jurors who would ultimately vote on whether to acquit or convict Trump.
A misconception about impeachment is that it refers to the removal of a president from office. In fact, impeachment refers only to the House bringing charges that a president engaged in “high crimes or misdemeanours”. One suggestion is that the over-arching aim is to ensure Trump never holds political office again – and that he cannot run for president again in four years.
In the House, a simple majority of its 435 members approved bringing charges – or articles of impeachment. But in the Senate, or the upper chamber, the constitution requires a two-thirds vote to convict. This is where the first attempt to punish Trump – over allegations he improperly sought help from Ukraine to boost his chances of re-election – failed. Just one Republican, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, voted in favour of action.
What happened during the first impeachment?
In 2019, Trump attempted to blackmail the president of Ukraine into fabricating a corruption investigation into former vice president Joe Biden, whom Trump feared would be his most formidable presidential opponent, by withholding congressionally approved military aid.