These Are the Key Players in the Trump Impeachment Inquiry

September 25, 2019, 5:47 PM UTC

After months of hesitancy, House Democrats officially launched an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Tuesday. The decision comes after reports that Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine before asking its president to investigate 2020 candidate Joe Biden in an illegal effort to boost his own reelection campaign.

Per the Constitution, impeachment proceedings begin in the House, usually with an investigation into potential articles of impeachment. If the House passes these articles of impeachment with a majority vote, the president goes to trial in the Senate. Two-thirds of the Senate must find the president guilty to have him or her removed from office.

Such a process has only been carried out against three U.S. presidents. Two—Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton—were acquitted, while Richard Nixon resigned before the inquiry was completed.

These are the key players of Trump’s impeachment inquiry.

1. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

As Speaker of the House, Pelosi is the lead in all decisions on the impeachment process and format. Her announcement on Tuesday officially launched the impeachment inquiry, despite the fact the House Judiciary Committee said it was already underway with such an investigation weeks ago.

While some impeachment inquiries have been launched by an official resolution, it’s not necessarily required. Pelosi made no mention of such a vote in Tuesday’s announcement.

Impeachment can also be led by a special panel or one or more existing committees. Pelosi directed the House Judiciary Committee to take the lead, with the five other committees currently investigating Trump to continue to do so under the “umbrella of impeachment.”

2. Representative Jerrold Nadler (R-N.Y.)

Nadler is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and leader of the impeachment inquiry under Pelosi. His panel has been investigating Trump since before the release of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Nadler himself has long been a supporter of impeachment, laying out a timeline for it as early as August.

The Judiciary Committee’s investigation centers around potential obstruction of justice, abuse of power, violation of the emoluments clause, and conspiracy to violate federal campaign and financial reporting laws.

Once all six committees complete their investigations, the House Judiciary committee is responsible for drafting the articles of impeachment, the official set of charges against the president.

3. Investigating Committee Chairs

Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) of the Intelligence Committee, Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) of the Oversight Committee, Richard Neal (D-Mass.) of the Ways and Means Committee, and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) of the Financial Services Committee will be continuing to lead the five additional investigations of Trump and his administration.

The intelligence, foreign affairs, and oversight committees earlier this month launched an investigation into the reported efforts of Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to pressure the Ukrainian president into aiding Trump’s reelection campaign. Additional investigations by these committees cover Trump’s potential counterintelligence threats from international connections, abuse of security clearances, financial conflicts of interest, ties with Deutsche Bank AG, and more.

According to the New York Times, Pelosi instructed each of these committees to collect their best cases of impeachable offenses and send them to the Judiciary Committee to compile.

4. The Whistleblower

The final push to launch the impeachment inquiry began with an unidentified whistleblower.

This individual reportedly filed a complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community months ago, voicing concerns with Trump’s behavior during a call with a foreign leader. The Trump administration then stopped the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, from turning the complaint over to Congress.

“This is a violation of law,” said Pelosi in Tuesday’s impeachment announcement. “The intelligence community inspector general, who was appointed by President Trump, determined that the complaint is both of urgent concern and credible.”

According to Schiff, the whistleblower’s counsel has reached out to the intelligence committee to inquire about a congressional testimony. This could become a key point of evidence for eventual articles of impeachment.

5. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Should the House pass articles of impeachment against the president, Trump will go to trial in the Senate. It’s unclear whether or not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could legally avoid this.

The Constitution states the Senate has “the sole Power to try all Impeachments,” but gives no specific timeline on how such a process must proceed.

McConnell said Wednesday that the Democrats have been on a “never-ending impeachment parade in search of a rational” for three years.

The vast majority of Republican lawmakers have stood behind the president thus far and are unlikely to vote him out of office. Putting Trump on trial with this as the expected outcome, however, would require lawmakers to either find flaws in the House’s indictment or go on record giving their approval of any alleged crimes.

6. Chief Justice John Roberts

The Constitution instructs the Supreme Court chief justice to preside over a presidential impeachment trial. Today, that would be Chief Justice John Roberts.

Roberts is a conservative judge appointed by President George W. Bush in 2005. He’s often regarded as the ideological center of the court, and as recently as Tuesday rejected the notion that the nation’s highest court has become politicized.

7. Trump’s Defense Team

While representatives from the House serve as prosecutors in an impeachment hearing, the person being tried is traditionally allowed their own defense.

In his impeachment, Clinton was defended by a team of lawyers including the White House counsel. Trump’s defense would likely hold a similar structure.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Trump’s lawyers, and members of the Department of Justice have already been attempting to hinder the House’s investigations for months by withholding documents, challenging requests in court, and advising witnesses.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

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—Impeachment poll: Trump-Ukraine call has done little to sway public opinion
—These are the key players in the Trump impeachment inquiry
—How impeachment momentum massively shifted among democrats
—The 25 most powerful women in politics
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