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Impeachment: A History

The history of impeachment in the United States.

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

What happens when a president gets impeached? The word may sound common today, but only three presidents have been impeached, or in one case, resigned (quit) because of the vote to impeach.

The Process

To impeach a president is to accuse him of wrongdoing.

When someone in the House of Representatives thinks the president has broken the law, he or she can file articles of impeachment. The House then votes, and if more than half agree, the president is impeached. But even then, the president isn’t removed from office straight away.

To actually “fire” a president, he has to be convicted of a crime. That is the Senate’s job. After the House of Representatives impeaches the president, the Senate has decide if the president is guilty or innocent.

Two thirds of the Senate must vote to convict the president. If they do, then the president is removed from office. If they don’t, then the president keeps his job.

President Bill Clinton

The History

President Andrew Johnson was the 17th president of the United States and the first to be impeached in 1868. He was impeached because of political conflicts after the Civil War. The Senate didn’t vote to convict him, so he stayed in office.

Over a hundred years later, the House started investigating a scandal involving the 37th president, Richard Nixon. He was never actually impeached, though. It seemed very likely that he would be impeached, so he quit before it could happen.

The next person to be impeached was the 42nd president, Bill Clinton. The House impeached him in 1998 for lying under oath, but the Senate didn’t vote to convict so he finished his term as president.

The third president to be impeached was Donald Trump, in the year 2020. He was accused of abusing his power to gain an advantage over his opponents. Even though the House of Representatives voted to impeach him, the Senate didn’t find him guilty.

No president has actually been removed from office by impeachment, as no president has ever been convicted by the Senate. Will it happen in the future? There’s a first time for everything.

Kelli Ballard

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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