DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The impeachment of a president doesn’t involve courts and lawyers, but is conducted by the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Which presidents have been impeached?
Only two presidents in U.S. history have been impeached – Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868.
To be impeached, the House must pass an article of impeachment against the president by a simple majority.
Both presidents were acquitted by the Senate.
Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 during the Watergate Scandal after it became certain he was facing impeachment and removal from office.
The Rules of Impeachment
“The House of Representatives shall … have the sole Power of Impeachment. … The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United State is tried, the Chief Justice (of the Supreme Court) shall preside; and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present.”
The Impeachment Process
Impeachment proceedings begin in the House of Representatives. There are no set rules for how the House can come to an impeachment vote.
During the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings, committees were formed to investigate both presidents. Their findings were then brought to a vote in the House. Technically, the House doesn’t have to form a committee or panel to begin impeachment. Someone can bring a vote to the floor with no prior hearings or investigation.
When an article of impeachment is brought before the House, they are voted on a simple majority, according to Senate.gov.
If an article passes, the president is impeached and the process moves to the Senate
A committee of House representatives acts as prosecutors before the Senate. The Senate Chamber serves as a courtroom. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides in impeachment cases involving the president while the Senators act as jury.
To convict a president requires a two-thirds vote by the Senate with the penalty being removed from office.
Treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors
Congress considers if the president committed any of the following: treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
The term “high crimes and misdemeanors” is from British common law, according to the New York Times.
Generally, what is considered for impeachment are abuses of power committed by the president. An article of impeachment doesn’t have to include a violation of a criminal statute.
The Times included this excerpt on impeachment from Alexander Hamilton in the Federal Papers. He described impeachable offenses as “offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in othe words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”
What are grounds for impeachment?
The Constitution states the requirements for impeachment are, ” treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” but those terms were made purposely vague according to many Constitutional scholars.
This means the process is determined mostly on the political will of the House and Senate and by the public at large.
Since impeachment proceedings have only been held twice in over 200 years, there are few precedents, meaning a Trump impeachment could lead to conflicts between various branches of government.