Jay Pearson of Orangeburg writes letters to the editor periodically. His latest correspondence begins, "I am of the opinion that many believe that should the House vote to impeach President Trump, he will be removed from office ... so to set the record straight, I offer the following."
From there, Pearson explains the impeachment process as follows: "Reducing impeachment of a sitting president down to the nitty gritty, the House is the investigating body. And after assembling a litany of facts can vote to impeach or not to impeach. The House cannot issue a finding of guilty. If a majority of the House votes to impeach, that finding is sent to the Senate where the impeachment trial is conducted. The chief justice of the Supreme Court presides, the Senate is the jury and the House appoints prosecutors from its membership. To impeach a president requires two-thirds of the Senate to vote for impeachment. If the Senate votes to impeach, the president is removed from office and the vice president becomes president."
Pearson is right to be concerned about what people know about government and its workings. Surveys routinely show very few understand the basics of the federal, state and local systems, from town halls to Congress, from magistrate's court to the Supreme Court. And with impeachment an unusual aspect of government as outlined in the Constitution by the nation's founding fathers, it's a safe bet that many remain unclear on what they are witnessing.
Here's where the process stands:
▪ After debating two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to approve both articles.
▪ The first article of impeachment accuses Trump of abusing his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals and withholding U.S. security aid and a White House meeting. The second accuses him of obstructing the investigation into his misconduct by blocking witnesses and disobeying subpoenas.
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▪The two articles of impeachment now go to the House floor for a vote. If a simple majority of the House votes to approve either article, Trump will become only the third president ever formally impeached, with impeachment meaning the equivalent of Trump being charged with wrongdoing.
▪If the House as expected votes for impeachment on Wednesday, a trial is to follow in the Republican-led Senate, with the chief justice of the Supreme Court presiding. Partisan lines are expected to be drawn in the upper chamber the same as in the House, with the Republican majority already vowing there is no way Trump will be found guilty. A primary question is how much of a trial there will be. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is advocating a short process. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is saying he will go with the president's wishes in determining how many witnesses to call. Either way, the Senate is not going to convict Trump and oust him from office.
If the House vote on impeachment looks like a partisan exercise and the Senate's plans appear much the same, know that is exactly what the Trump impeachment is: A fight between Democrats and Republicans over a controversial president.
The founders did not intend impeachment to be a partisan process. It was to be a last resort in removing a leader commiting "high crimes and misdemeanors," thus endangering the country.
So what is unfolding in Washington now is little more than Democrats seeking to undo a Republican president and Republicans, no matter what, determined to prevent such. Trump will be impeached by the House and its Democrats and acquitted by the Republican majority in the Senate.
In the end, the entire process will further divide the country and, ominously, set the stage for partisan impeachments for presidents to come.