What is impeachment and how is it used? What happens when a president gets impeached? Impeachment is when Congress removes the US president from office. The word may sound common today, but only three presidents in the history of the US have been impeached, or in one case, resigned (quit) because of the vote to impeach. President Donald Trump, if impeached, could become the fourth.
When someone in the House of Representatives thinks the president has broken the law, they 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.
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 remains.
President Andrew Johnson was the 17th president of the United States and the first to be impeached in 1868. The Senate didn’t vote to convict though, so he remained in office.
Over a hundred years later, the House impeached the 37th president, Richard Nixon. It seemed very likely that the Senate would vote to convict him, so he quit before they could. He lost the presidency, but he avoided being convicted of criminal charges.
The last person to be impeached was the 42nd president, Bill Clinton. The House impeached him in 1998, but the Senate didn’t vote to convict so he finished out his term as president.
A First Time for Everything?
No president has actually been removed from office by impeachment, as no president has ever been convicted by the Senate. Richard Nixon probably would have been, but he quit before it could happen. Today, the House of Representatives is thinking about trying to impeach Donald Trump, who is the 45th president. It’s possible that he will be the fourth president to be impeached. But if he is impeached, will the Senate convict him? As the old saying goes: There’s a first time for everything.