Sabtu, 28 November 2020

Could Donald Trump be impeached for his handling of coronavirus? What would a conviction mean? - ABC News

More than 250,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the US, and case numbers are continuing to surge, with more than 12 million reported infections during the pandemic in that country alone.

President Donald Trump was just one of many who contracted the disease, falling ill after a superspreader event at the White House Rose Garden.

Donald Trump stands to the right of Amy Coney Barrett on a platform on grass with hundreds of people sat in front of them.
Several people who attended US President Donald Trump's ceremony to announce his nominee to the Supreme Court have contracted COVID-19.(AP: Alex Brandon)

After recovering, he downplayed the severity of the virus, claiming he felt great and had become immune.

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US President Donald Trump says he's "feeling great" in his first public appearance since being released from hospital.

He has repeatedly butted heads with health experts, including coronavirus expert Anthony Fauci, over how to handle the growing pandemic.

Both men have been critical of decisions made by the other, with Trump labelling Dr Fauci, 79, who is one of the most respected scientists in the United States, a "disaster".

With record case numbers showing no signs of abating, is it possible Trump could be impeached for his handling of the coronavirus crisis?

OK, so what exactly is impeachment?

An impeachment proceeding is a process where a sitting president of the US is accused of wrongdoing, so any action against Trump would require proof of this to succeed.

Impeachment is a two-step political process — not a criminal process — which involves both houses of Government: the Senate, and the House of Representatives.

2013 state of the union
If Mr Trump wins, Republicans will control the White House and both houses of Congress.(Reuters: Kevin Lamarque )

The first step is a symbolic vote by the House of Representatives that determines whether a president should face trial for breaching the constitution.

The Senate then steps in to handle the trial that decides whether the president should be removed from office.

Bill and Hillary Clinton sitting next to each other
The US Senate unanimously agreed to the rules of Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, which began in 1998.(Reuters)

Three presidents have been impeached in US history: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Donald Trump in 2019. None were convicted.

An impeachment process was started against Richard Nixon, but he resigned in 1974 to avoid the proceedings.

Richard Nixon sits at a desk looking into the camera
Richard Nixon avoided impeachment by resigning from the presidency.(File)

How bad must behaviour be for impeachment?

The constitution lists "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours" as justification for proceedings.

The definition of "high crimes and misdemeanours" is fairly broad and would be wide open to legal interpretation.

For Trump to be impeached over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his behaviour must meet any or all of those thresholds.

Can Trump be impeached twice?

Maybe. There is no precedent of a US president being impeached twice, but it is possible.

And there is nothing in the US constitution that says presidents can't be impeached after leaving office.

If Trump was impeached and convicted, he would never be able to run for president again.

Trump was impeached in late 2019 on two charges.

They focused on abuse of power and obstruction of conduct.

In February, the Republican-majority Senate acquitted Trump on both counts.

Never the shy wallflower, Trump emerged victoriously before the media, brandishing a newspaper emblazoned with the word "Acquitted".

He levelled criticism at those involved in the impeachment process, saying the trial was an "ordeal" orchestrated by some "very dishonest and corrupt people".

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Trump held up headlines about his acquittal at the event

Would Biden bother with a second impeachment?

Whether Biden's new Government would want to embark on such a lengthy and expensive process during a time of such national and global upheaval is debatable.

Biden has been critical of Trump's response to the pandemic.


However, he has also repeatedly stressed that a cohesive, bipartisan approach from both political parties is crucial for beating COVID and rebuilding an economy that is in tatters.


Biden, who will take office on January 20, has vowed to fight the pandemic.

He and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris have developed a seven-point plan to fight COVID-19, which specifically states they will listen to science and allow health professionals to inform policy.

Recently, the Trump administration refused to show its pandemic and vaccination plan to president-elect Joe Biden, who said his team was forced to develop its own so as not to waste time.

Could Trump face criminal charges?

The short answer is yes.

Once Trump finally leaves — or is forcibly removed — from the Oval Office, his presidential shield disappears.

But he does hold a few final cards up his sleeve.

Trump could try to pardon himself on the way out the door for any and all crimes he has ever committed.

This could be a way of side-stepping any potential charge of negligent homicide for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner has flagged may be a possibility.


Again, there's no precedent for this, as no outgoing president has ever given it a shot.

Biden could extend an olive branch of political protection by pardoning Trump once he has been inaugurated.

This exact thing happened when Gerald Ford took over the presidency and pardoned Nixon for anything he had ever done in office, including the Watergate coverup.


It's impossible at this stage to know whether Biden would see pardoning Trump as a way of starting to heal a divided nation.

After all, almost 74 million people voted for Trump and still support his policies.

Trump is yet to concede the election, and there are still two months before Biden takes office.

Given this is 2020, we all know that anything can and will happen between now and then.

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2020-11-28 18:49:00Z

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