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Impeachment of US president

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The impeachment proceedings of US President Trump are inching forward. In the latest development the defence team of the president has levelled counter allegations against the Democratic Party. The defence team is accusing the Democrats of trying to undermine the 2016-election results by removing President Trump from his office.

As in most other countries, it is primarily the accusers’ responsibility to prove their allegations. While the accused have a right to defend themselves, they don’t need to prove themselves innocent. It is interesting to note that in the 230-year constitutional history of the USA it is only the third time that an attempt is being made to unseat a president through impeachment. Let’s have a quick look at what it means to be impeached. Impeachment is the process of presenting charges against a sitting president to the elected representatives.

There was talk of bringing such charges against President Farooq Leghari of Pakistan in 1997; but, he decided to resign before any charges could be presented in the parliament. In 2008, General Musharraf did the same. In the USA, to unseat a president the charges should be of a very serious nature such as treason or bribery. An impeachment can be initiated if some major unlawful activities are believed to have been committed by the president. In countries that have a bicameral legislative parliament, both houses must approve the impeachment before a president can be unseated.

Since the USA has a bicameral legislature comprising the House of Representatives (somewhat like Pakistan’s National Assembly) and the Senate or the upper house, the president will not be unseated unless both chambers approve the impeachment. Usually, an impeachment begins in the lower house i.e. the House of Representatives where the process of impeachment is initiated by a simple majority. Then it goes to the Senate where a two-thirds majority is needed to approve the president’s removal. That has never happened in the US history. Before Trump, two American presidents........

© The News on Sunday