2016 Presidential Election

Republican candidate Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential election against Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton.

President Trump
President Trump

While Clinton actually won more votes than Trump (she received 48.1% of the votes, Trump received 46.5%) the US electoral system favoured Trump because he won more individual states.

This was an aggressive and controversial election. Clinton was accused of corruption because she used a private email server for official government business while she was Secretary of State. Trump suggested he would try to put her in jail for these actions.

Donald Trump was accused of sexism and sexual assault by a series of women and he also made a number of controversial comments about Mexicans.

Evidence suggests that Trump’s most committed supporters were white Americans, particularly those on high incomes and those who had not gone to college or university. Clinton’s supporters tended to be from African American backgrounds, women and lower earners.

2019 impeachment proceedings

Protesters in New York call for the impeachment of Donald Trump, 2019

In September 2019, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives started a process of investigating allegations of wrong-doing by President Trump.

The Democrats alleged that during a phone conversation in July 2019, President Trump illegally urged President Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a potential Democrat rival for the up-coming 2020 US presidential elections. Trump was accused of threatening to withholding military aid to Ukraine if Zelensky did not announce the investigation.

If true, the charges would be seen as an abuse of presidential power – of using the presidency for personal gain to the detriment of national security.

On 19 December 2019, the House of Representatives voted to begin impeachment proceedings against the president. If impeached, President Trump could have been removed from office. The House voted on two charges:

  1. abuse of power – the attempt to get the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden
  2. obstruction of Congress – the allegation that Trump withheld evidence and barred his key aides from giving evidence

Impeachment trials are held in the US Senate. In order to impeach a president, a 'super-majority' of votes (67% in favour) is required. The Senate is currently controlled by Republicans and so several Republican senators would have had to vote against their own president for the impeachment charges to pass.

Impeachment verdict

President Trump celebrates his impeachment acquittal, 6 February 2020.

On 5 February 2020, President Trump was acquitted of both charges by the Republican-controlled Senate.

On the first charge – abuse of power – the vote was 52-48 in Trump’s favour. The only Republican senator to vote against Trump was Mitt Romney.

On the second charge – obstruction of Congress – the vote was 53–47 in favour of Trump. All 53 Republican senators backed Trump.

Trump joins just three other presidents to have faced impeachment: Bill Clinton in 1999; Richard Nixon in 1974; and Andrew Johnson in 1868.

None of the impeachment proceedings were successful. Clinton and Johnson avoided a super-majority verdict against them and Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.