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Impeachment

Part I. Estados Unidos de América

By: Terry Ahtziry Cardenas Banda, attorney and law professor.

The United States is experiencing a political era of great controversies, from the executive orders of the President in controversial issues such as the proposal for the construction of the wall, as well as the discontinuation of the DACA program, to the situation currently being experienced in the Congress with the possible impeachment of the President of the United States.

Impeachment is the process of dismissal of a government official, it is the process by which the legislative body files charges against a government official, especially officials in high positions such as heads of government, ministers, presidents, among other authorities of high rank. This process is a legal figure generally embodied in the constitutions of countries with the model of government of a republic and is based on the principles of responsibility of public servants. Every government official must perform his duties and the position with responsibility, when he does not act according to the law and abuse of his functions the impeachment process provides a legal tool to make him responsible for his action and sanctioned with the dismissal of office, disqualification for similar functions and/or authorize it to be judged by the ordinary courts of justice of the country. The impeachment process is established in the Constitution of each country and the sanction varies by country. The first step of the impeachment process is the impeachment accusation, which is primarily the declaration of charges against the government official, with the impeachment the government official is not immediately removed from office, however, in some countries they can be removed from office during the trial. The causes that give grounds to the legislative power to initiate an impeachment process are when grave abuses have been committed by the government official, which vary depending in the country, meanwhile, article 2 section 4 of the US Constitution states that in the United States the impeachment process at the federal level is limited to removing from office those who have committed: “Treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The Constitution of the United States of America establishes in article 1 the power of Congress to carry out an impeachment, first in section 2 the House of Representatives is granted the sole power of impeachment, continuous act, in section 3 the Senate is granted the sole power to try all impeachments. In the same way, it establishes that when the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside, and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present.

Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend beyond the removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any position of honor, trust or profit in the United States; however, the convicted party shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment, in accordance with the law in an ordinary court of justice, as established in article 1 section 3 clause 7 of the constitution.

The impeachment process does not impose criminal sanctions on the government official, is the process by which it is determined whether the government official misused his functions as a public servant to such an extent that he should be dismissed from office, disabled to perform other government positions or to allow a criminal trial against him in front the corresponding courts.

In the United States, as indicated above, the process begins with the impeachment of the House of Representatives and the Senate is responsible for carrying out the trial of an impeachment against the government official and two-thirds of the votes of the senators are necessary to be sanction.

In the United States, there have been around fourteen federal impeachment proceedings initiated, of which only four ended with a sanction. To this date, only two presidents had been tried through this process, Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1998-1999), Richard Nixon in 1974 was about to have an impeachment trial, however, he resigned from office after being impeached by the House of Representatives, before being tried by the Senate. Recently, the House of Representatives began an investigation to begin impeachment against President Donald Trump for violating the oath of office and his obligations under the Constitution, therefore he will be the third president in being tried by this procedure.

December 18, 2019, has been a historic day for the United States of America, as the House of Representatives voted in favor of initiating the procedure of political trial against President Donald Trump in two articles: for abuse of power and obstruction of the Congress. Since the votes were in favor of beginning the process of impeachment the case is now turned to the Senate to begin the trial against the president. The Senate will begin the impeachment trial of the president in early January 2020 and a two-thirds majority will be required for the conviction and removal from office of President Donald Trump.

On the other hand, Mexico’s impeachment process is established in article 76 section VII of the Mexican Constitution, to discuss the details of the impeachment process in Mexico, consult part two of this article that will be in the next edition.

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