Impeachment is the first step to removing a president from office. Impeachment, under the American Constitution, has been initiated against two presidents: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.
The impeachment process is very hard and difficult because the effort needs to represent two-thirds of the house and should be tried by the senate, in order to get convicted impeached person needs a majority of guilty votes, which makes the impeachment process itself has a kind of deterrent restraining function.
What is impeachment?
Impeachment is a process in which the House of Representatives charges a federal official with committing treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. If they vote to impeach the official by a majority, that person is then tried by the Senate.
The Constitution permits Congress to remove presidents before their term is up if enough lawmakers vote to say that they committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
How Does Impeachment Work?
In impeachment proceedings, the House of Representatives charges an official of the federal government by voting on articles of impeachment. After the House votes, they send their articles to the Senate. The Senate then considers evidence, hears witnesses, and votes to convict or acquit the impeached official.
In presidential impeachment trials, a group of representatives called “managers” act as prosecutors before the Senate. The chief justice of the United States presides over the trial in this case.
The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict, and upon conviction, an impeached official is removed from office. In some cases, the Senate has also decided that such officials can’t hold public offices in the future. There is no appeal for such cases. Since 1789 about half of all Senate impeachment trials have resulted in removal from office and disqualification from future office-holding opportunities.
How Does a President Get Impeached?
Let’s learn about How does a president get impeached?
The Constitution says that the president, vice president, and all civil Officers of the United States can be removed from office for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
The House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach, but not convicted, an official. This means representatives can charge a civil officer with an offense. So how does that work?
Representatives must vote on what they call “Articles of Impeachment.” These are basically a statement of the offenses they believe the officer is guilty of. Think of them like charges in a court case. An officer who gets enough votes to be charged with an offense has been impeached.
Once that happens, it moves to the Senate for trial. Senators decide whether or not they think the officer is guilty of those charges. If they do find them guilty, then they’ve been convicted, and are removed from office.
Has Any U.s. President Been Impeached?, and Why?
As of 2021, three United States presidents have been impeached, although none were convicted: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Donald Trump twice, in 2019 and 2021.
While the exact reasons for impeachment have varied over time, the Federalist Papers claimed that the reason for impeachment was “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”
Johnson was impeached for violating the Tenure of Office Act, which forbade him from firing officials who had been nominated by Congress. Clinton was impeached for obstruction of justice and perjury after lying about an affair with an intern. Trump was impeached for obstructing Congress’s investigation into his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
Standards for Impeachment and Removal
Impeachment and removal are not clearly defined in the Constitution. The Constitution does not specify many standards for impeachment, making it as much a question of political will as of legal analysis.
For example, the Constitution does not detail how lawmakers may choose to interpret what does or does not constitute impeachable “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Similarly, there is no established standard of proof that must be met.
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Rules for a Senate Trial
The rules of a Senate trial aren’t set in stone. There’s no rule book or anything like that. Instead, the Senate passes a resolution first laying out trial procedures.
For example, in President Clinton’s impeachment trial, the Republican managers got four days to make their case for conviction and then the president’s legal team got four days to defend him. Those were basically opening statements. Then the Senate decided whether it would hear witnesses, and if so, whether it would be live or on videotape. Eventually, the Senate permitted each side to depose several witnesses by videotape.
The whole thing is pretty fluid, which means that we don’t know exactly how things will go down with this trial yet either!
Since the original passage of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, there have only been nineteen cases in which a president has been impeached. While all 19 were officially impeached, only eight had enough votes to be convicted by the Senate and removed from office.
Regardless, though, many believe that the impeachment process is detrimental to American democracy, for reasons discussed above and more — it’s a ‘political death penalty.’ As a matter of fact, since 1835, when Andrew Jackson threatened to hang any judge who ruled against him, no judge has ever been impeached— or even tried! Still curious? Check out our list of things you never knew about impeachment!