What is impeachment and how is it used? What happens when a president is impeached? Although the term may sound common today, only three presidents in the history of the US have been impeached, or in one case, resigned because of the vote to impeach. President Donald Trump, if impeached, could become the fourth.
Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution stipulates that a president “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
First, the members of the House of Representatives debate and vote on whether to bring charges against the president. A simple majority vote is needed. If the House approves the resolution, then the Senate holds a trial with the chief justice of the US Supreme Court presiding. To convict and remove a president, a two-thirds majority vote is required. So far, no sitting president has been removed from office this way.
President Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th president of the US and the first to be impeached. In 1868, the president attempted to fire Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and the House decided to seek impeachment. The Senate didn’t convict Johnson and the trial was adjourned.
President Richard Nixon
In 1974, members of the House initiated the process against Richard Nixon, the 37th president. Most of the charges related to the infamous Watergate scandal, which happened in 1972.
“Watergate” refers to the Washington, DC building where several burglars were arrested in the office of the Democratic National Committee. The burglars had been caught wiretapping phones and stealing documents. This was during the presidential election campaign and Nixon took aggressive steps to cover up the crimes. When it seemed obvious the Senate would vote in favor of impeachment, Nixon resigned.
President Bill Clinton
The Republican-controlled House voted in October 1998 to begin impeachment proceedings against the 42nd president, Bill Clinton, regarding his inappropriate relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. On Dec. 19, 1998, Clinton was impeached on grounds of perjury to a grand jury and obstruction of justice for lying about his relationship with Lewinsky. However, on Feb. 12, the Senate voted not to convict, and Clinton finished out the rest of his presidential term in office.
President Donald Trump
President Trump has not yet been impeached, but Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has approved moving forward with the process. Will he be the fourth president to face impeachment?