Pelosi Wants to Impeach: Here's What That Means

Pelosi Wants to Impeach: Here's What That Means

After resisting calls to impeach President Trump for months, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did a startling about-face on Tuesday, announcing that the process will now officially begin. There's a lot of commentary floating around about what happened and what it all means. Here's what you need to know.


Impeachment: What it is and what it isn't The US Constitution gives Congress the power to remove a president for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." Impeachment, which is just one part of that process, refers only to the decision by the House of Representatives to bring those charges against the president, which will then be taken to the Senate for trial. It's important to emphasize that being impeached is not the same thing as being removed from office. Just ask former Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, both of whom were impeached but served out their terms. Impeachment is a political process, not a judicial one, meaning that partisan interpretation of what constitutes an impeachable offense varies.

Why now? For months, Pelosi resisted calls for impeachment amid concerns that the political circus that ensued could hurt Democrats' 2020 election chances. Voter appetite for impeachment is low – hovering at around 35 percent at the beginning of this month – and Pelosi has been reluctant to risk her party's already-tenuous majority in the House.

But new allegations that Trump attempted to pressure Ukraine's president into investigating 2020 Democratic front runner Joe Biden and his son – which could constitute an impeachable abuse of power – changed her calculus. That may be because of how serious the allegations are: they are part of a whistle-blower complaint from the intelligence community that the Trump administration has so far withheld from Congress. But it's also likely because moderate Democrats representing swing districts have now, in light of the Ukraine allegations, publicly come out in support of impeachment, bringing the number of pro-impeachment House Democrats to 208 out of 235. Because those moderates are the ones who have the most at stake if this process backfires against the Democrats, Pelosi had little choice but to respond.

What's the actual process? Pelosi has asked six House committees to gather evidence on potential offenses committed by the president and present them to the Judiciary Committee for a final determination on whether "articles of impeachment" (charges) are warranted. If so, then to send the process forward, a simple majority of the House (218 members) must vote for impeachment. If that happens, the president would go on trial before the Senate, where a two-thirds supermajority of votes would be needed to remove the president from office. So far, top Republican Senator Mitch McConnell has kept his cards close to his chest, but there's no indication that the GOP-controlled Senate would do such a thing.

Does Trump want to be impeached? He has publicly signaled that he sees the impeachment proceeding as based on misinformation. From a strategic perspective, Trump may be betting that weak public support for impeachment will in fact help him at the polls (Pelosi's long-time worry). And we know that Trump is at his political best when he is lashing out against enemies, both real and imagined. But the risk for him is that impeachment throws such a constant and unwavering light on allegations of his misconduct, that he ends up having to run for re-election not only against his Democratic opponent, but also against the revelations of the impeachment itself.

What's next? Pelosi has not given a timeframe for this process, other than to say it would be done "expeditiously." But if precedent is anything to go by, it will drag on for many months. And it's bound to get ugly.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

More Show less

Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

More Show less

In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

More Show less

When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

More Show less

YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

More Show less

Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal