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How Does Impeachment Work?

Let’s clear up the confusion about impeachment.

If you notice a yellow highlight on the page, hover over it for the definition!

A lot of people don’t really understand what impeachment is. The recent case with President Donald Trump didn’t make it any clearer. Impeachment is a way of removing an elected official from office. Impeaching someone is like charging someone with a crime.

The Founding Fathers said two actions – treason and bribery – were serious enough to remove a president. The term “high crimes and misdemeanors” are also grounds to impeach, but this is not very clear.

The U.S. House of Representatives issues charges and the Senate hears the case against the accused person, acting as a jury. This process is for the removal of an official who has done something terribly wrong.

America just witnessed an impeachment against a sitting president. Since the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, only three presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump.

The process is:

  • An investigation by the House Judiciary Committee.
  • The House of Representatives votes on whether to go ahead with the impeachment or not.
  • Finally, the Senate hold a trial to find the person guilty or innocent.

The U.S. Constitution says there must be a two-thirds vote to find a person guilty and convict them. Then the impeached person must leave office. If the person is found not-guilty, they can keep their job.

Many people get confused because they think that impeached means guilty and removed from office. That isn’t right. “Impeached” means a person is formally accused by the House of Representatives. Only the Senate gives a guilty verdict. If convicted in an impeachment, a president leaves office with no other punishment.

Sarah Cowgill

National Columnist at and Sarah has been a writer in the political and corporate worlds for over 25 years. As a sought-after speech writer, her clients included CEOs, U.S. Senators, Congressmen, Governors, and even a Vice President. She’s worked as Contributing Editor at Scottsdale Life, a news reporter for the Journal and Courier, and guest opinion political writer for numerous publications nationwide. A born storyteller, Sarah has published a full-length book and is currently finishing a quirky, sarcastic, second novel.

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