Movement to impeach President Donald Trump well underway in the United States

By Rohan Smith

US President Donald Trump smiles as he speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Photo / AP
US President Donald Trump smiles as he speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Photo / AP

It's been a rollercoaster first two weeks with Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

In less than a fortnight, Trump has already offended Mexicans, offended Australians, offended Muslims and offended women.

The groundswell of anger for some at least is being channelled into efforts to see him marched out of the White House before his tenure is up. The only way that happens is via impeachment.

It's never been done before but it's far from impossible. A lawyer for the movement Impeach Donald Trump Now says the wheels are already in motion.

A SIMPLE VOTE COULD DO IT

President Donald Trump had what has been reported as a difficult phone call with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull this week. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump had what has been reported as a difficult phone call with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull this week. Photo / AP

But how would it work? Put simply, with a vote in Congress.

There's a clause within the US Constitution that allows for a US President to be removed from office for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanours".

It's a broad definition of wrongdoing, and some say Trump's failure to divest his businesses before taking office qualifies as a high crime.

It's a stretch, but the good news for the impeachment movement is that Congress doesn't need any actual evidence to proceed with the vote. It simply requires a member to introduce a resolution calling for an impeachment investigation.

From there, voting would get under way in the House of Representatives first. If a majority ruled against Trump, it would proceed to the Senate.

There's a precedent for that. An impeachment against former president Bill Clinton was initiated in December 1998 after it emerged he had an extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Two charges passed the House of Representatives but were defeated in the Senate. Clinton was acquitted on both.

CONTROL OF BOTH HOUSES

President Donald Trump hosting a reception for House and Senate leaders in the the State Dining Room of the White House. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump hosting a reception for House and Senate leaders in the the State Dining Room of the White House. Photo / AP

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are already calling for Trump to be impeached. As of February 2, more than 580,000 people had signed a petition on ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org.

The site is run by Free Speech For People. The group's legal director, Ron Fein, told news.com.au Trump was abusing his privilege and had to be stopped.

"No modern president has displayed the casual indifference to the Constitution and the rule of law that President Trump shows." he said.

"The violations, the corruption, and the threat to our republic are here now, but they will only get worse the longer he stays in office. Americans deserve a President who is not beholden to foreign governments to keep his businesses afloat, and whose decisions about bread-and-butter, not to mention life-and-death matters, will not be used to prop up Trump Towers around the world."

The betting markets think impeachment is a possibility, too - SportsBet in Australia said on Thursday that impeachment had firmed from $5 to $2.80.

But the problem for the anti-Trump movement is that no matter what the president does, Republicans control both houses. Basically, an extraordinary series of events would be required for the president to be ousted prematurely.

'I DON'T SEE IT'

Experts say impeachment won't happen "any time soon". Photo / AP
Experts say impeachment won't happen "any time soon". Photo / AP

Lecturer in US politics at the United States Studies Centre at Sydney University Gorana Grgic said she doesn't expect to be watching an impeachment "any time soon".

"It's because the congressional GOP leadership has a perverse incentive to let (Trump) roll for the time being," she told news.com.au.

"This is almost once in a generation opportunity for some of them to go ahead with their policy agenda."

She said hearings would take a lot of time to be carried out and would most certainly have a "severe adverse effect on the 2018 midterms".

"Unless something really huge emerges regarding the 'high crimes and misdemeanours, bribery, treason' committed by the President, I don't see I don't see (the Republican leadership) changing their deferential approach."

Fein remains hopeful. He said his group has "been in discussion with several members (of Congress) and anticipate that happening in the near future.

"We recognise that there will at first be some resistance in Congress, but as time goes on, more and more evidence will emerge that the President is not just violating but openly flouting the Constitution."

- news.com.au

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