House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has fired the starting gun on a monumental battle that could lead to Joe Biden becoming the first U.S. President removed from office – but there is still a long way for Republicans to go.
By launching a formal impeachment inquiry McCarthy has increased the chance of Biden, his son Hunter and their associates, being dragged before Congress to answer questions about allegations of corrupt foreign business dealings.
The Bidens could now have their bank records, mortgage details, emails, text messages and mobile phones subpoenaed, along with anything else Congress wants to see.
Such impeachment inquiries into a president have been extremely rare throughout U.S. history.
What is an impeachment inquiry?
The Constitution gives Congress the power to impeach the president for treason, bribery and other ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’
An impeachment inquiry can be launched by the Speaker, or by any member of Congress who secures a majority vote for it in the House of Representatives.
In the Biden case several committees – Oversight, Judiciary and Ways and Means – have already been investigating allegations that he corruptly used the office of Vice President to help his son Hunter make money from deals in countries including China and Russia.
Their discoveries included that Biden repeatedly met with his son’s foreign business partners, and took him on Air Force Two trips.
It contributed to McCarthy’s decision to announce a formal inquiry to pursue more evidence.
The committees will now be able to hold hearings and call witnesses, who could include Hunter, his business partners, and even Joe Biden himself.
Ultimately, the findings of the various investigating committees will be considered by the House Judiciary Committee.
What are articles of impeachment?
The Judiciary Committee will prepare articles of impeachment, which are proposed charges based on the evidence.
The Republican-led Judiciary Committee will then vote on whether to adopt the articles.
If it does, then the articles will be sent to the House, which will debate them and then vote on whether the president should face a trial on the charges.
Only a simple majority of the House – where the Republicans outnumber Democrats 222 to 212 – is needed to proceed.
If the articles did pass the House then Biden would be officially ‘impeached’.
The ensuing trial of President Joe Biden would be held in the Senate, presided over by the Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts.
The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict the President and remove him from office.
Joe and Hunter Biden are under investigation by committees in Congress
Kevin McCarthy took the historic step of announcing a formal impeachment inquiry
Has a President ever been successfully impeached?
In the history of the United States so far, no President has been convicted in the Senate.
Donald Trump was impeached twice and acquitted both times in Senate trials.
Bill Clinton was impeached and acquitted on charges of perjury and obstruction relating to the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Richard Nixon resigned before he was impeached amid the Watergate scandal.
What does the Constitution actually say about impeachment?
The United States Constitution says that the House of Representatives ‘shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and that “the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments…(but) no person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present’
Impeachment can be pursued against the president, vice president, and other government officials.
The process of impeachment started in England and it was later adopted by state governments in America.
In the U.S. Constitution it became a key plank of the system of ‘checks and balances’.
It allows Congress charges to hold executive officials to account and remove them for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.’
The wording ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ was not defined further by the Founding Fathers and its meaning has long been debated.