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What does impeachment actually mean?

Many average Americans have no idea
Posted at 6:06 PM, Dec 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 19:06:59-05

LAFAYETTE, La. — President Donald Trump has been impeached - but do most people know what impeachment really is?

UL Political Science Professor Gabi Vitela explains, "Essentially an impeachment is like a grand jury, to put it into legal terms. We've heard evidence and we have determined that there was sufficient evidence for charges to be brought to trial but there's been no determination yet of guilt or innocence either way and this isn't removal."

Think of it as the equivalent to an indictment, the court process that officially charges a person with a crime. After articles of impeachment are approved by the House of Representatives, they are sent to the Senate for a trial. How the trial is conducted is where it gets a bit complicated. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are currently at odds over what rules will be set for President Trump's pending trial.

"We have a basic structure from the Constitution of what a Senate impeachment trial looks like. Senators sit as jurors, (the) Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides and beyond that it's really up to the chamber itself, how they structure the rules," adds Vitela. The House sends "managers" to act as prosecutors and the impeached official has the right to provide defense attorneys and evidence.

After both sides present their cases, the senators deliberate, then vote. If acquitted, the official would continue in their role. If the Senate votes to convict, then the official would be removed from office.

President Trump's Senate trial is expected to begin in early January.