BY AAron Shiozaki
East Los Angeles College professors hosted a panel on impeachment and its process on Thursday.
The panel, which was part of the Social Science Lecture Series, included U.S. history professors Steve Wardinski and Carlos Ramirez and political science professors, Kenneth Chaiprasert and Rogelio Garcia.
President Donald Trump was being impeached, but not convicted. Trump was impeached when the House of Representatives was given information presented by committees of the United States.
“There are different committees within the House that oversee different aspects of the American government,” said Wardinski.
The committees are the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Impeachment is an accusation, not a conviction. Therefore, the accused will not be removed from office until proven guilty or innocent. However, the impeached official remains in office until a trial is held.
The Committee on Foreign Relations looks into a person of interest by monitoring if they have been doing anything questionable with a foreign power and should be looked into. The Committee on Ways and Means checks if any taxes seem out of the ordinary and if the accused is paying their taxes or bribing people. Oversight and Reform, searches for things the other committees have not found and try to find something in a specialized area.
When a committee finds a criminal act within their field, they notify the House Judiciary Committee to determine whether they will proceed with an impeachment or not. A simple majority vote of 41 members of the committee is required to proceed. After that, they will draft a resolution to outline the possible crimes committed by the perpetrator, which in some cases may be the president.
The committee will then present the appropriate charges of misconduct.
The process will be passed onto the House of Representatives and a majority of 435 members must be reached to proceed with an impeachment trial. Managers will then be selected from the House Judiciary Committee to serve as the prosecution. They will then approach the trial and provide the evidence to the Senate to determine guilt or innocence.
“That is generally the way things work. Some modifications here and there. The reason why it’s so different is because this thing was deliberately vague. For example, once the trial happens, there are no rules to how this thing goes. They are literally written at that time and place,” Garcia said.
The case will be brought forth, evidence will be presented and the impeached official will have their lawyers present. The Senate will be a jury of 100 and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will be invited. A majority of 67 senators is needed to convict and remove the impeached official from office.
Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 and Article II, Section 4 grant the House of Representatives the sole power of impeachment. Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 grants the sole power to try all impeachments. Therefore, it is within the authority of the Supreme Court and the courts to pursue the possibility of the obstruction of justice.
The president may use executive privilege to withhold information in the public interest to avoid an impeachment or panic across the nation. However, the Senate can use their power of impeachment and conviction to overrule the normal constitutional procedure in the case that the president may have committed a serious crime.
“This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, this is a rule of law issue. The basic principles set forth in our Constitution is that no person is above the law,” Garcia said.
In the case of Richard Nixon, he used executive privilege to withhold information on the tape recordings in his office, but the Senate overturned his privilege and he was forced to present the tapes.
“When those charges were filed for the full House to consider, Republican leaders in Nixon’s favor said, ‘You will be charged. You will be convicted, we have counted the votes. The Senate will convict you 91 to 9. Please quit before that happens,’ and he quit two days later,” Wardinski said.
Nixon was pardoned by Gerald R. Ford, who had just been made President of the United State when Nixon resigned. He was then able to keep the title of president and was granted a pension along with Secret Service protection for life.