After House Democrats took the extraordinary step this week of initiating a formal impeachment inquiry, numerous questions have arisen about the complicated process, and how it could play out for President Trump.

We asked readers what they wanted to know about the inquiry and received nearly 1,300 questions. Our reporters in Washington have answered a selection.

Could someone explain which specific law, or laws, Trump’s request to the Ukrainian president regarding investigating Biden’s son would violate?

Are there different laws implicated if it is proven that Trump withheld funds in order to encourage the investigation? What about if the attorney general was involved?
— Janine Marie Connell, High Falls, N.Y.

A version of a legal determination released by the Justice Department points to an allegation that Mr. Trump may have violated a law that prohibits the solicitation of an illegal foreign campaign contribution, which doesn’t necessarily mean money, it can also mean a “thing of value.”

But it’s also worth noting that when it comes to impeachment, the president need not have committed a violation of an ordinary criminal statute to have committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.” That term came out of the British common law tradition and essentially means an abuse of power by a high-level public official.

Arguing for the ratification of the Constitution in 1788, Alexander Hamilton described impeachable crimes as “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

Charlie Savage

Given everything we know about the Senate, how likely is it that Trump will be removed from office? Is pursuing an impeachment inquiry to remove Trump from power more of an effort to effectively remove him from office or is it more useful in promoting a negative view of the president in the eyes of the public?
— Daniel Vance, Washington

Considering the Republican majority in the Senate, it seems very unlikely that Mr. Trump would be convicted in that chamber if ultimately impeached by the House because it would require 67 votes to remove him. That means a minimum of 20 Republicans would have to break to join all 47 Democrats to oust the president. Senate Republicans have been mainly steadfast in their support of the president thus far.

House Democrats say they are motivated more by what they see as their constitutional obligation to hold Mr. Trump accountable for misconduct rather than force him from office given Republican control of the Senate.

— Carl Hulse

Are there any Republicans in the House who support impeachment, or launching an impeachment investigation? As I recall in 1974, there were Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee who voted for impeaching Nixon. It would be interesting to compare the Republicans of 1974 with those of 2019.
— Jeff Wood, River Forest, Ill.

So far, no House Republican has stepped forward to support the impeachment inquiry, and it is doubtful any will. Representative Justin Amash of Michigan earlier said that impeachment should be considered after the release of the special counsel’s report. He was essentially driven out of the party and is now an independent.

It is correct that in 1974, some high-ranking Republicans confronted President Richard M. Nixon over Watergate and advised him to step aside. In other scandals, it has been pressure from the president’s own party that has shifted the tide. No evidence of Republicans abandoning Mr. Trump is visible at this point.

— Carl Hulse

If the House votes to impeach but the Senate does not vote to remove Trump from office, what then happens? Does he remain in office even though he was officially impeached?
— Pearl Sullivan, Atlanta

Yes. Think of impeachment as somewhat akin to a criminal indictment. After impeachment, the Senate holds a trial to determine guilt and decide whether to remove the president from office. Take Bill Clinton. He was impeached in 1998 but was ultimately acquitted by the Senate and completed his term in office. Ditto Andrew Johnson in 1868. Mr. Nixon resigned in 1974 to avoid being impeached.

— Sharon LaFraniere

During an impeachment inquiry, are there any limits placed on the president?
— Dawn Standera, Minnesota

No. The government goes on as usual, although it is hard to imagine the president working with Democratic members of Congress to pass any significant legislation while impeachment looms over him.

— Sharon LaFraniere

Why is it “not O.K.” to indict a sitting president but O.K. to impeach?
— Wendy Griswold, Jupiter, Fla.

According to the prevailing opinion by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, a sitting president cannot be indicted.

But the Constitution permits Congress to remove a president before a term is up if enough lawmakers decide that “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” were committed.

— Sharon LaFraniere

Has anyone interviewed the Ukrainian president regarding this matter, and if not, why not?
— Kay Juricek, Denver

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine is not granting interviews at this time, but he did answer some questions at an appearance on Wednesday at the United Nations.

With Mr. Trump by his side, Mr. Zelensky said the call was “normal,” and that “nobody pushed me.” He added, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be involved in the democratic elections of U.S.A.”

Mr. Zelensky finds himself in a very delicate and tricky position. He badly needs the support of the Trump administration to combat Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. At the same time, he wants to present his government, only months old, as independent and not under anyone’s thumb.

— Sharon LaFraniere

Do we know what Joe Biden did for his son Hunter? What has Giuliani been reaching for?
— High Chapparal, Albuquerque

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, and other Trump allies claim that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. used his position in 2015 to demand that Ukraine oust its top prosecutor in order to protect his son Hunter Biden. At the time, Hunter Biden was on the board of an energy company led by an oligarch, Mykola Zlochevsky, who had been under investigation.

But no evidence has emerged that Mr. Biden acted to shield his son. Many Western institutions and governments, including the United States, were demanding that Ukraine oust the prosecutor because he was corrupt. And the Obama administration supported criminal investigations of the oligarch.

— Sharon LaFraniere

If the House approves articles of impeachment, is Mitch McConnell required to hold an impeachment trial? What is the timing on when he would have to do so?
— Mark Schmidt, Rochester, N.Y.

The Constitution clearly envisions that the Senate will hold a trial if the House votes for impeachment. But if Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, simply refuses to do that, there is no obvious enforcement mechanism to make him.

— Sharon LaFraniere

If the House votes to impeach President Trump, will the Senate have the right to question President Trump under oath or will the Republican majority (Senate) be able to block that? Would it be open testimony or behind closed doors testimony?
— Bruce Monteith, Calabasas, Calif.

As my colleague Charlie Savage has written, there are no set rules. The Senate has to pass a resolution that lays out the procedures for a trial.

Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, who served as a kind of prosecutor during the Senate trial of Mr. Clinton, put it this way: “Impeachment is a creature unto itself.”

— Sharon LaFraniere

How can we verify that this is an accurate transcript of the phone call between Mr. Trump and the president of Ukraine?
— Nancy Story Somers, Cogan Station, Pa.

The document released Wednesday, known officially as a “memorandum of telephone conversation,” includes a cautionary note that it is “not a verbatim transcript” and is based off the notes and recollections of people who listened to the call. As such, it is not 100 percent clear that the words in the document were the ones used.

But Trump administration officials also said that voice recognition software was used in reconstructing the dialogue between the two leaders. That provides more assurance that the conversation is accurate.

— Michael D. Shear

Is there a verbatim version of the transcript?
— William Bagnai, San Diego

As far as we know, there is no verbatim transcript, and it is not clear whether an audio recording exists of the telephone call.

— Michael D. Shear

How important is it that Giuliani is the president’s personal lawyer, not an official of the government? Should a private citizen be involved in carrying out foreign relations?
— Mary Jo Moss, Corydon, Ind.

It is quite important and very messy. Although Mr. Giuliani is not a federal official, foreign officials are very likely to see him as speaking for the president, just as if he were part of the administration. This blurring of roles is actually more typical of countries like Russia than the United States.

An obscure federal law known as the Logan Act, which dates to 1799, prohibits private citizens from interfering with the conduct American foreign policy without the government’s approval. But no one has ever been convicted of violating the act. And in any case, because Mr. Giuliani was acting on the president’s behalf, he presumably had the required governmental blessing.

Although Mr. Trump has praised Mr. Giuliani’s efforts, criticism has nonetheless been widespread and intense.

Here’s just one example: “It is certainly highly inappropriate for a private citizen to get involved in these international affairs and to in effect aid and abet the president in getting a foreign government interfere in our elections,” said Evelyn Farkas, a senior fellow with the German Marshall Fund.

— Sharon LaFraniere

Is it the normal process for the Justice Department and White House to weigh in and hold back a whistle-blower complaint? Does it normally go directly to Congress?
— Patricia Hall, South Carolina

While administration officials may consult with the Justice Department on matters like how to handle an intelligence community whistle-blower complaint, such complaints generally go directly to Congress. Bradley P. Moss, a lawyer who specializes in whistle-blower issues, called the Ukraine matter “unprecedented.”

— Katie Benner


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