Can Congress get in the way of Congress?

US Congress resolves charges against Trump

The panel accepted both charges for possible impeachment of the president with 23 votes to 17. Donald Trump is supposed to answer for abuse of power and obstruction of the investigations of the Congress.

The vote is a recommendation to the House of Representatives plenary. There, the MPs could vote on the points before Christmas and thus formally open impeachment proceedings against Trump.

Abuse of office?

The Democrats accuse Trump of pushing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi to investigate his political rival Joe Biden in order to influence the 2020 US presidential election in his favor. The trigger was a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25th. In it he tried to get Selenskyj to investigate ex-Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter for alleged involvement in corruption. They see this as an abuse of office.

In the sights of the US Democrats: US President Donald Trump

They also accuse him of obstructing the House of Representatives' investigation into the Ukraine affair. Trump vehemently rejects the allegations and speaks of a "witch hunt".

During the hour-long debate, they mostly exchanged positions they were already familiar with. The Republicans accused the Democrats of a campaign of revenge against Trump, while they denounced grave misconduct by the president. Justice Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said, "No matter how popular he may be, no matter how good or bad the results of his policies, no president should be a dictator in the United States."

Sees serious misconduct by the US President: Jerrold Nadler

The Republicans accuse the Democrats of undoing Trump's 2016 election victory and wanting to prevent his re-election next year. "The Democrats have never accepted the will of the American people," criticized Republican MP Jim Jordan. His fellow party member Louie Gohmert tried a crude historical comparison: "That's how it went under Stalin."

Senate decides

The Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives. It is therefore very likely that if there is a vote in the plenary session of the Chamber, sufficient votes will be gathered for the official opening of the impeachment proceedings.

However, that does not mean that Trump will actually be removed from office. The actual impeachment process should begin in January. The US Supreme Justice John Roberts presides, the Senators are the jury, and representatives of the House of Representatives are the prosecutors. Presidential lawyers take on Trump's defense. After the vote in the House of Representatives, the process continues in the Senate, where Trump's Republicans have a majority.

A conviction and removal from office by the Senate, for which a two-thirds majority of 67 of the 100 senators would need, is currently considered highly unlikely. That would require at least 20 Republican senators to side with the Democrats.

Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton (from left)

Even so, the formal opening of impeachment proceedings would be a blemish for Trump. He is only the fourth President in US history to be investigated after Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Impeachment proceedings have so far only been formally opened against Johnson and Clinton - Nixon resigned before the House of Representatives could vote on the charges in the Watergate affair. So far, not a single US president has been removed from office by the Senate.

Trump voters don't care

Currently, almost every second US voter is in favor of impeachment - this is not the massive popularity that the Democrats had hoped for. Support has even decreased recently. The assessment is also strictly according to party lines: While the vast majority of supporters of the Democrats are in favor of impeachment, Republican voters are strongly against it. The president's popularity ratings have not changed significantly since the start of the affair.

cgn / se (afp, dpa)