An online petition to impeach Donald Trump has gained over one hundred thousands signatures and is only one of multiple online petitions and other machinations intended to pressure Congress to remove Donald Trump from office. But will any of these calls make a difference?
A Change.org petition, titled simply “Impeach Donald J. Trump,” has already garnered over 104,000 signatures, as of this writing. The petition’s goal is 150,000 signatures.
“If you agree this man should not be leading our free nation, stand with us! By signing this petition you are requesting the immediate impeachment of Donald Trump, removing all opportunity for his control of the executive branch of our government.”
Similarly, another online petition calling for Trump’s impeachment, titled “Impeach Trump Now,” exists as its own website, apart from the Change.org website.
“From the moment he assumed the office, President Donald Trump has been in direct violation of the US Constitution. The President is not above the law. We will not allow President Trump to profit from the presidency at the expense of our democracy.”
It is unclear how many signatures that petition has garnered.
The Problem With Online Petitions
Online petitions are great for drawing attention to your cause, or at least, publicizing whatever injustice you want remedied. As a means of causing anyone to take action, however, online petitions aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. There is no law, statute, or other requirement for anyone to act on online petitions, whether they receive one hundred thousand, signatures, one hundred million signatures, or one signature.
One exception to this rule is petitions on the official White House website, Whitehouse.gov. Officially, if a petition on the White House website receives 100,000 signatures, it will get a response, in one form or another. However, not all petitions to have reached the required threshold have gotten a response; and even if a petition produces a response, it won’t necessarily be the response the petitioners want.
The Impeachment Process
The Constitution lays out the process for impeaching the president. Specifically, Article II, Section IV of the Constitution states that “The President… shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
The phrase “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” is open to interpretation, but generally means that the House of Representatives can impeach the President for just about any offense, whether it was a crime or not. For example, Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice, both criminal acts for which you can be tried in a criminal court and possibly face jail time. Andrew Johnson, on the other hand, was impeached for a variety of procedural and political missteps, and not any criminal offenses.
In order to begin impeachment proceedings, a member of the House of Representatives must either read the charges against the president under oath, or refer the charges to the appropriate committee. That means that, in theory, any member of Congress can begin impeachment proceedings against Trump as early as tomorrow (although in a practical sense, that’s not going to happen without several weeks or even months of debate and political maneuvering). The House will then, after a series of hearings and debates, vote on whether or not to impeach the president. If a majority vote to impeach, the president will stand trial in the Senate. There, if two thirds of the senators vote the president guilty, he will be removed from office.
Both Clinton and Johnson were impeached, but neither man was found guilty in the Senate, and both men went on to finish the remainders of their terms. They remain the only U.S. presidents to have been impeached.
Is Donald Trump Impeachable?
In the strictest sense, the Constitution allows for any member of Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump for whatever “High Crime and Misdemeanor” that member wants to accuse him of, from criminal behavior to political missteps, or even giving that member a dirty look. So in a strictly Constitutional sense, yes, Trump is impeachable, as was Barack Obama before him, and as will be whoever is president after Trump.
However, the question you’re probably asking is, has Donald Trump done anything serious enough to get impeached? The answer to that question will depend largely on whom you ask, of course.
The president need not have committed the acts for which he is impeached while in office, and indeed, before taking office, Donald Trump has racked up plenty of civil and legal cases against him; some have been settled, others are ongoing. In fact, according to The Daily Beast, as of November 10, 2016, around 75 lawsuits were pending against Donald Trump. Throughout his career, Trump has been a party to around 4,000 more lawsuits.
Meanwhile, since taking office, Trump has continued to maintain business relationships that, according to Impeach Trump Now, violate the Constitution. If true, those allegations may be considered serious enough to get Trump impeached and possibly removed from office.
However, it bears noting that, for the moment, impeachment is something that only exists in the “talking about it” stage. Furthermore, all of that talk is taking place outside of Washington. As of this writing, no sitting member of the House of Representatives has given any indication of plans to begin impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]