What exactly is an impeachment investigation

US Democrats launch investigations into Trump's impeachment

In this gallery: 2 images

Washington - The US Congress took the first steps to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday night. Nancy Pelosi, the spokeswoman for the House of Representatives, announced on Wednesday night that by starting formal investigations, she had started the first stage of the process that could lead to an impeachment case against the US President.

The background to this is the latest allegations against Trump that, in a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj, he made the resumption of military aid from the US budget dependent on the fulfillment of personal and political conditions. Specifically, Trump is said to have called for the start of corruption investigations against the son of his possible democratic opponent Joe Biden.

"Ridiculous Witch Hunt"

According to the Democrat Pelosi, Trump has committed a breach of the constitution. The president violated his oath of office. In return for possible investigations, Trump is said to have made an inappropriate "promise" to the Ukrainian - but nothing is known about its content. US media reported that before the phone call, Trump personally ordered not to pay out aid funds of 391 million US dollars (355 million euros) that had been promised to Ukraine - and thus to put Zelenskyj under pressure.

A previously anonymous whistleblower, presumably from the secret service apparatus, reported on this in August. He had turned to the general inspector of the secret services, Michael Atkinson. Atkinson then tried to legally inform MPs of the incident. Acting secret service director Joseph Maguire, on the other hand, wanted to prevent him from doing exactly that, according to media reports.

"Friendly and appropriate conversation"

Democrats see the incident as an attempt to influence the presidential election in November 2020 with the help of a foreign government and possible abuse of office. Trump has repeatedly rejected the allegations made against him. He spoke of a "ridiculous witch hunt" in New York on Tuesday. Its only goal is to sabotage his visit to the UN General Assembly.

"So much work and so much success and the Democrats had to willfully destroy it," he tweeted. He also stated that he had approved the publication of the transcript of the disputed telephone call. The public will then see "that it was a very friendly and perfectly appropriate conversation," tweeted Trump. However, the Ukrainians have not yet agreed to a publication.

In view of the possible investigation, the US president is said to have contacted Pelosi during the night and requested that a deal be concluded. According to a report by US broadcaster MSNBC, Pelosi said in a Democratic meeting that Trump said, "Can't we do something about this whistleblower matter, can't we find a solution?" an agreement promised. According to Pelosis, she then told him that he could "tell his people to obey the law."

"Pressure on Biden"

Trump, at least in public, continues to vehemently oppose the allegations. He declared in New York that he had not put Zelenskyj under pressure. When it came to the withholding of the aid money, he said, he wanted to see whether other countries such as Germany and France could pay more. However, Trump admitted that there was pressure on Biden: "You have come under pressure on Joe Biden. What Joe Biden did for his son is something you should look into," said Trump. He accuses Biden of pressuring Ukraine as vice president to prevent corruption investigations against his son Hunter Biden, a businessman. Biden has denied the allegations.

In fact, the affair could also be dangerous for the Democratic candidate. Although there is hardly any evidence for the allegations against his son or even against him - the talk about possible corruption is politically harmful. Biden is under pressure for the first time in national polls. In the state of Iowa, where the first Democratic primary decision will be made in February, he fell behind his competitor Elizabeth Warren in a poll. Nevertheless, for the first time, he has also called for the president to be removed from office. Hillary Clinton also said she was in favor of impeachment.

US Senate decides

So far, an impeachment process has also been controversial among the Democrats. In the course of the new Ukraine allegations, however, more and more democratic parliamentarians spoke out in favor of impeachment proceedings: US media put the number of supporters at around 150. At least 218 votes are required. The Democrats have a majority of 235 of the 435 votes in the House of Representatives.

So far, Pelosi has been very skeptical of impeachment proceedings. In the past she repeatedly referred to the high hurdles and the associated risks. Critics point out the impeachment process could reduce the Democrats' chances of knocking Trump out of office in the November 2020 election.

An impeachment process could be initiated with the majority of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. The decision on an actual impeachment takes place in the Senate, where Trump's Republicans have a majority. A two-thirds majority is required for dismissal. The Republicans had failed at this hurdle in the late 1990s when they initiated impeachment proceedings against then Democratic President Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky affair.

$ 250,000 in 15 minutes

So far, no US president has been removed from office through impeachment proceedings. In addition, a process could also fuel the base of the US president. According to his own account, his re-election campaign raised $ 250,000 within 15 minutes of Pelosi's announcement.

According to a survey, however, a majority of Americans are so far behind an impeachment procedure. 55 percent of all respondents considered such an approach to be correct if Trump had actually suspended military aid in order to gain such an advantage in the election campaign, a survey by the YouGov Institute revealed on Wednesday. Only 26 percent were against it. (mesc, APA, Reuters, September 24, 2019)