What Is a Formal Impeachment Inquiry and What Happens Next in the Investigation Into Donald Trump?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is moving full steam ahead with the establishment of a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Pelosi announced plans to "move forward" with the inquiry at the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon, asserting that "no one," not even the president of the United States, "is above the law."

The announcement came after months of the House speaker resisting calls from progressive Congressmembers urging her to launch impeachment proceedings against the president.

However, what "changed everything," Pelosi said was the revelation that Trump may have pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating former Vice President and 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden.

"The president has admitted to asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically," Pelosi said."The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable facts of betrayal of his oath of office and betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections."

While Trump has admitted to holding a call with Zelensky in which he said the two world leaders discussed a desire to root out so-called "corruption," the U.S. leader has maintained that he has "done nothing wrong."

"Trust me, you'll see the transcript," the president said in an email sent out to supporters on Tuesday evening.

But as Trump seeks to clear his name, Pelosi appears determined to press on with impeachment proceedings, raising questions around how the process will unfold and whether the inquiry might actually lead to the president's ouster.

What is an impeachment inquiry?

An impeachment inquiry marks the start of the constitutional process in which the lower house of the legislative branch–the House of Representatives–votes on whether to bring formal charges against the president through an impeachment resolution, or "articles of impeachment."

If the House approves the resolution, the case would move forward to the Senate, before which it would be tried with the oversight of the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

In order for the president to be removed from office, the Senate would need to see a two-thirds majority in favor of impeachment, meaning at least 67 senators would need to vote in favor of ousting the U.S. leader.

The below chart from Statista provides a detailed outline of the impeachment process.


Could proceedings result in Trump's impeachment?

Pelosi's announcement on Tuesday marked the fourth time in U.S. history that the House of Representatives has launched a formal impeachment process against a president.

Impeachment in the U.S. is extremely rare and it has only happened twice in U.S. history to Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, with neither measures resulting in a president actually being ejected from office.

Currently, the Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents, who typically vote with their Democratic peers.

Given the makeup of Senate, in order for Trump to be removed from office, at least 20 Republicans would need to join with all Democrats and independents in voting in favor of the U.S. leader's removal.

While it is unlikely that the bid to remove Trump will be able to garner the support it needs to succeed in Senate, if Trump were to be impeached, Vice President Mike Pence would become the president for the remainder of the U.S. leader's term.

Donald Trump
Displayed on a monitor, U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on September 24, 2019 in New York City. Trump has maintained that he has 'done nothing wrong' as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces the start of the House's impeachment inquiry into the U.S. leader. Drew Angerer/Getty