CHARLESTON, Ill. (WAND) - President Donald Trump is under the microscope again, and this time for a phone call where he allegedly pressured Ukrainian leaders for information about potential presidential opponent Joe Biden.
An impeachment inquiry against President Trump - linked to whistle-blower claims about that phone call - was then announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. WAND News spoke to a local political science professor to break down what the impeachment process could look like and the bigger issues at play.
First is the buzz word of the day: "impeachment".
“There’s really no guidelines about what an impeachable offense is. The Constitution says 'high crimes' and 'misdemeanors', and a misdemeanor is you know, a speeding ticket," said Eastern Illinois University Political Science Assistant Professor Dr. Ryan Burge. "So, anything can be construed as an 'impeachable offense' if a majority of the members of the House of Representatives say it is. So really there’s no burden of proof or evidence that has to be found.”
As the United States' history shows, impeachment is rare. Donald Trump is only the fourth president in history to face a threat of it. Burge said removing a president from office is a difficult and layered process.
“I think his chances of actually being impeached are above 50%, but his chance of being removed are way below 20%, I would say in the single digits, right now as far as what we know,” Burge shared.
Burge said roughly 15 more members of the House need to decide they want to impeach President Trump. But for him to be removed from office, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority vote. This is easier said than done with a Republican majority.
Burge theorizes there could be something bigger at play with the impeachment inquiry than House Democrats genuinely mistrusting the president.
“The bigger strategic idea that’s going on is, are the House Democrats acting in good faith or are they acting in a politically advantageous way to try to diminish Trump’s chances of re-election in 2020,” said Burge.
Burge went over a few theories of how the president has reacted to allegations over misconduct during the July phone call. He explained the president could have nothing to hide, which is why he released transcripts of the phone call so quickly. Or, if his intentions were found to be less than ideal, he could be trying to speed up the possibility of an impeachment to get it out of the way quickly before 2020's campaigning begins.
However, Burge also said to keep an eye on the moves of the Democratic Party. Their timing could also be very telling of their motives. Burge shared that delaying or dragging out impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump could be a tactic to taint his 2020 presidential campaign.
The truth, Burge said, is something that will likely only be grasped years later, after everything’s already played out.