Impeachment in the United States: What is It?

President Bill Clinton Impeached Newspaper Headline
President Bill Clinton Impeached Newspaper Headline

The details of impeachment of government officials varies from country to country. This article will confine itself to how to process proceeds in the United States.

Impeachment, from Dictionary.com:

noun

  • The impeaching of a public official before an appropriate tribunal.
  • (In Congress or a state legislature) the presentation of formal charges against a public official by the lower house, trial to be before the upper house.
  • Demonstration that a witness is less worthy of belief.
  • The act of impeaching.
  • The state of being impeached.

    So, the popular assumption that impeachment means removal from office is simply not true. Rather, it is analogous to an indictment in criminal law, and so it is essentially a statement of charges against the official in question. Impeachment at the federal level is limited to those who may have committed “Treason, Bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors .”

    Article One of the United States Constitution gives the House of Representatives the single power of impeachment. The Senate’s responsibility is to try impeachments of officers of the U.S. federal government. On a state level, state constitutions include like measures which allow the state legislature to impeach the governor or other officials of the state government.

    If an official is impeached, he or she then faces a second legislative vote. This vote determines conviction, or failure to convict, on the charges specified by the impeachment. It is notable that this process does not involve the Supreme Court.

    Presidential Impeachment History in the United States

    As of this writing only two US presidents have been impeached. The first was Andrew Johnson. It began to unfold on February 24, 1868, when the House of Representatives resolved to impeach Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of these United States. Specifically, the allegations were high crimes and misdemeanors which were spelled out in eleven articles of impeachment. The main charge against Johnson was the violation of the Tenure of Office Act. This had been passed by Congress in March 1867 despite his veto. Why? He had removed Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War, from office. The act had been designed to protect Stanton and to replace him with Brevet Major General Lorenzo Thomas.

    The second impeachment was President Bill Clinton. It was initiated on October 8, 1998 when the United States House of Representatives voted to begin the impeachment proceedings against Clinton who was the 42nd president of the United States for high crimes and misdemeanors. Specifically, the charges were lying under oath and obstruction of justice.

    Currently, the United States House of Representatives is holding hearings on the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump.


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    About the author:

    Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.