Listen: How does the impeachment process work?

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses during a press conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2019 in New York City, one day after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will launch a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump. (Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A new podcast episode digs into how impeachment works.

The impeachment inquiry launched against President Trump last week marked the fourth time in history such a proceeding has been initiated. It’s been more than 20 years since the last impeachment proceeding began against Bill Clinton, which means the details of how it works might be a little fuzzy.

This week’s episode of the Democracy Works podcast sheds features a conversation between Michael Berkman, director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy and professor of political science at Penn State, and Michael Nelson, a professor in political science and affiliate faculty at Penn State Law.

Listen to the episode here:

Nelson and Berkman discuss the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which factors prominently into what offenses are considered impeachable.

“The term comes from British Common Law and typically refers to the most severe crimes committed by someone with a high level of political power,” Nelson says.

Impeachment also requires involvement from all three branches of government. The House of Representatives brings an inquiry and the Senate holds an impeachment proceeding that the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over—all in service of an indictment against someone in the executive branch.

“When the framers devised the Constitution, they were concerned about the diffusion of power and making sure no one branch would become too powerful,” Nelson says “That same logic is in place with impeachment. It’s one of the rare cases where all three branches of government are involved.”

The notion of acting as a check on presidential power is relevant to foreign affairs, where the president traditionally has more leeway to act unilaterally, Nelson says.

“The president is supposed to be the US representative in foreign affairs,” Nelson says. “Finding out that someone is potentially using this power for their own gain might have been enough to sway House members who were unsure about impeachment before.”

Listen to the full conversation on impeachment here.

Source: Penn State