November 4, 2019 | Reading Time: 2 minutes

QT: Impeachment in brief

The Republicans believe you're a moron.

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Someone has to explain the impeachment process so more people understand how much lying the Republicans are doing. So here it is in abbreviated fashion.

Impeachment is a political process, not a legal one, but it takes on the form of legal proceedings in the interest of transparency, accountability and, of course, democracy.

For this reason, impeachment in a political setting is the same as an indictment in a criminal setting. A criminal indictment is a charge, or charges, brought against the accused. It presents evidence of wrongdoing to justify taking the case to trial. At trial, the accused has the right to a jury of her peers and representation by counsel. The accused also has the right to face her accuser in open (i.e., transparent) court.

All of this is due process in law.

An impeachment is a political indictment that follows the same contours as a criminal indictment for the same reasons—transparency, etc.—but with some differences.

The charges against the accused come in the form of “articles of impeachment,” which basically spell out what the accused has done wrong. The articles of impeachment present evidence of wrongdoing. The House doesn’t have to persuade a judge to go to trial. It has to pass articles of impeachment by majority (50 plus one). If the articles are passed by majority, the accused has been impeached. Or, in other words, indicted.

That’s what impeachment is. It is not a “lynching.” It is certainly not a “death penalty.” It is not a secret “Soviet-style Stalinist coup.” It is not reversing an election. It only means that the House of Representatives, the people’s chamber of the federal government, believes the president should go to trial in the United States Senate.

And all of this is the result of due process. (By the way, impeachment is applicable to officials in the executive and judicial branches only. Donald Trump keeps saying Adam Schiff, the lead Democrat in the House inquiry, should be impeached. Um, nope.)

I’ll explain the next part another time. Meanwhile, consider this from Lindsey Graham, a former prosecutor who knows what impeachment means. The Republican senator from South Carolina does appear to really think Americans are morons.

—John Stoehr



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John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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