The Red & Black
September - October 2019 Issue

What is “Impeachment” and How does it Work?

Impeaching the President of the United States is a weird idea to entertain. People always throw the word around with any President in office, but it has only happened twice in the nation’s nearly 250 year history. Many people believe that they understand the process. “The President is thrown out of office when he’s impeached, right?” Well, no. Impeachment is a long, complicated, and arduous process. Here is our attempt at explaining the fascinating inner workings of one of the most misunderstood facets of the American democratic system.

Everything needs to start somewhere. To start an impeachment, the Speaker of the House of Representatives must give their approval to begin an impeachment inquiry. However, this is not something that can just happen out of the blue. The political climate has to be right for Congress to even consider acting. Historically, impeachment inquiries have been fueled by scandals, especially those that cause a rapid decline in support for the president in both Congress and the people as a whole. The seventeenth President, Andrew Johnson, was the first to be impeached after he fired his Secretary of War (now known as the Secretary of Defense), violating a law stating that certain cabinet positions may only be removed by consent of Congress. Nixon was supposedly in direct involvement with the DNC break-in at the Watergate hotel. Bill Clinton was accused of lying under oath to a grand jury about his relationship with Monica Lewinski. With Trump, this scandal was the whistleblower complaint that he had pressured the Ukranian government to find dirt on Vice President Joe Biden’s son in an attempt to get an edge in the 2020 election. 

Now, if the impeachment inquiries find anything of note, the real fun begins. House committees investigate the inquiry’s fndings and may write Articles of Impeachment. Once the Articles are written up, the House Judiciary Committee reviews all charges against the President. With Johnson’s impeachment, 11 articles were written, all of them passed. Nixon, five articles, three passed. Clinton had only four articles against him with two passing and two failing. Nixon resigned almost immediately after the Judiciary Committee approved the three articles. This was the first and only time that a sitting president has resigned.

Once the articles are approved by the House Judiciary Committee, the House will vote on whether to press charges against the President. Surprisingly, only a simple majority is actually needed to impeach the president, rather than a supermajority. With the house at its current size of 435 representatives, 218 votes in favor of impeachment will approve the articles of Impeachment. The Democrats currently hold a 235-197 majority, which is more than enough to impeach the president. However the real decision is up to the Senate.

If everything goes in favor of Impeachment, the Senate will put the president on trial, passing a resolution on how the trial is going to work. The House Judiciary Committee generally acts as the prosecution, while the President has his own defense lawyers. However, the Senate is not required to hold a trial at all. If the 2020 elections keep the Senate in Republican control, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the charges are dismissed. But let’s just say that the Senate goes ahead with the trial, what happens then? Once the trial is completed, the Senate votes on whether to remove the President from office. This would require a two-thirds majority, or 67 senators to vote in favor, something that may need a miracle for the Democrats. Historically, no President has ever been removed from office, but as we all know, nothing about this administration is certain.


EEE Outbreak

If a disease has 30 or fewer reported cases, many people won’t consider it a serious national threat. This season however, the record-high number of EEE cases has made national headlines because of the serious damage this disease can cause and the lack of any treatments to help affected patients.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis, known as “Triple-E” or “EEE”, is a virus carried by birds, which is then transmitted to mosquitoes that feed on them. From there, the virus can spread to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes. 

This year, there have been 30 cases of EEE reported across the country in six states: North Carolina, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Of these 30 cases, 11 people have already died.

Though symptoms vary, those affected with EEE often experience headaches, fever, chills, and vomiting. In more serious cases, the EEE virus leads to serious neurological problems such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), disorientation, seizures, permanent brain damage, coma, and death. It is estimated that roughly ⅓ of patients suffering from neuro-invasive EEE will die from the disease. 

The growing impact that EEE has on the United States stems from changes in the virus that cause these neurological infections. Through genetic sequencing of past viral strains of major EEE outbreaks, different variations of the virus have been discovered, playing a significant role in the ultimate severity of the outbreak. As new strains of the EEE virus develop, birds that are more susceptible to unfamiliar strains bring the illness to northern states as they migrate in the spring. From there, the illness spreads further from mosquitoes to humans. 

This year’s sudden spike in EEE reports, especially in the New England region, has also been associated with increased rainfall and warmer temperatures in late summer and early fall. Because of these conditions, larger mosquito populations have formed, increasing the number of infected mosquitoes carrying the EEE virus. 

With an illness that can cause such detrimental health consequences and with no current forms of treatment, people need to be aware of the ways that they can protect and prevent themselves from getting the EEE virus. As temperatures remain warm enough for mosquitoes to survive, theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends using insect repellent whenever going outside, especially in swampy or woodland areas. In addition, the CDC recommends wearing clothing that covers both the arms and legs and limiting the time spent outdoors from dusk to dawn as it is the time where mosquitoes are most actively searching for food. 

The EEE outbreak will ultimately end when the first hard frost comes, bringing cold temperatures that kill off the disease-carrying mosquitoes; but until then, be mindful and aware of the harmful complications that this disease can cause.