On Sept. 24, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi officially authorized an impeachment inquiry amid months of
impeachment talks in Congress.
Article II of the Constitution outlines the rules of impeachment and the removal of the president from office. It states, “the
President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and
Conviction of, Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” It is up to the House of Representatives to define
“high crimes and misdemeanors,” and they can pass the motion with a simple majority vote.
Impeachment does not remove a president from office. Following impeachment, the Senate holds a trial with the Chief
Justice of the United States presiding. The removal of a president at the conclusion of this trial requires a two-thirds vote in
No U.S. president has ever been removed from office through impeachment. The House of Representatives impeached
both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, but the Senate later acquitted them both.
The recently confirmed impeachment inquiry is focused on President Donald Trump’s dealings with Volodymyr
Zelensky, the president of Ukraine. In a phone call that took place in July, Trump asked Zelensky to do him a “favor” by
looking into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who served on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma,
according to BBC. The inquiry will seek to determine whether or not Trump committed an impeachable offense by making
this phone call.
Trump and his defenders have maintained that the call was innocent and did not constitute a crime, while many
Democrats and others say that Trump betrayed his oath of office and violated electoral laws.
“The biggest misconception I hear in the media and from people in daily life is that impeachment means the president is
out of office,” Daniel Bennett, associate professor of political science at JBU, said. “That’s not the case.”
Seth Billingsley, a junior political science major, also said that he has noticed confusion surrounding the impeachment
inquiry and what impeachment is.
“I think people either assume impeachment means they’re trying to kick him out of office, which in reality impeachment is
just an investigation,” he said. “I had someone tell me the other day, ‘Oh, obviously Trump is guilty. Have you read the
Mueller report?’ That’s an entirely different thing. So I think there’s a lot of confusion about what’s actually happening.”
Bennett said that incorrect applications of the term “impeachment” extend beyond citizens and the media.
“The president himself and some of his defenders have said, ‘this is an unconstitutional process.’” Bennett said. “It’s the
definition of a constitutional process. You can say that it’s a misuse of it, but it’s still a constitutional process that we’ve
been going through so far.”
Billingsley believes that the media has not been clear about why the impeachment inquiry is happening and what it
means, which is why many people seem to be confused. He said that individuals will have to do some research in order to
get a firm grip on the truth.
“It’s valuable to know how the system works, but honestly the way that the media is portraying why this is happening has
been vague, like, ‘Ukraine? Russia? He called somebody and asked their government to look out for Biden?’” Billingsley
said. “If somebody wants to be able to talk about it and have a strong opinion on it, they actually need to understand what’s
Bennett said that being informed on the current impeachment inquiry requires being tuned in to the national and
“I think it’s important that we’re engaged with the world around us,” Bennett said. “It doesn’t mean that everyone needs
to be an expert on politics or know all the ins and outs of impeachment, but as far as our calling to be engaged in the world,
not of the world, there is a responsibility that we know a little bit about a major event going on in our country. This doesn’t
require you to change majors or become news junkies.”
When it comes to becoming more informed about news events, Bennett suggests drawing from a variety of reliable
“You can keep up-to-date … on social media. The one caveat, and I guess it’s kind of a big caveat, is to make sure that
the sources you’re following are reputable sources,” Bennett said. “Follow people who might come at an issue from a more
conservative perspective, as well as people who are coming at that same issue from a more liberal perspective. You can
take that and decide which you find more compelling.”