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How Are Presidents Impeached

Impeaching a president is one of the ultimate forms of checks and balances within the United States government. Article two, section four of the U.S. Constitution states the president can be impeached on conviction of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” This raises an important question: how are presidents impeached?

Impeachment can remove an unfit president from the highest office in the nation, with no chance for an appeal. The serious, multi-step process of impeachment  involves specific roles for each party involved.

How are presidents impeached?

  1. The House of Representatives brings impeachment charges. This process begins when representatives introduce impeachment resolutions just like they would with regular bills.
  2. The Committee on the Judiciary decides whether to pursue the impeachment. A special committee investigates if impeachment charges are needed based on the president’s actions. If a majority of the committee finds grounds with the impeachment, it reports back to the House.
  3. The House then votes to impeach. The House technically impeaches the president if an impeachment article gets a majority vote. If that happens, the House then appoints a team to oversee the following trial on its behalf. These so-called managers are usually members of the Judiciary Committee.
  4. The House gets the Senate involved. After the House decides to impeach, it adopts a resolution to tell the Senate of its decision. The Senate then adopts an order saying it is ready to hear from the managers.
    The managers will appear before the Senate bar to explain the impeachment articles against the president. The managers present back to the House afterward.
  5. The president is summoned. The constitution gives the Senate the sole power to try all impeachments. The Senate begins this by calling the president to appear in court on a chosen date to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If the president or the president’s consul does not show up, the Senate assumes a not guilty plea. It then sets a trial date.
  6. The Senate holds trial. An impeachment trial is similar to a criminal trial. The House managers act as prosecutors, and the president has defense lawyers. Witnesses are subpoenaed to give testimony and answer questions, and evidence is presented.
  7. The senators take over the role of jurors, and the Chief Justice of the United States presides over the trial, sometimes ruling on procedural questions. If at least two-thirds of senators find the president guilty, he or she is formally convicted.
  8. The president is removed, and the vice president becomes president. When the Senate finds a president guilty, it can also vote on whether the president should be disqualified from holding office again. A majority vote decides this.

How are presidents impeached? The House of Representatives brings impeachment charges based on a president’s misconduct, and the Senate determines his or her fate.

Two presidents have been formally impeached, but neither of them were convicted or removed from office. President Andrew Johnson was impeached, but his conviction failed by one vote in the Senate. Bill Clinton was impeached, but the Senate found him not guilty. President Richard Nixon came close to being impeached. He had pending impeachment charges against him in the House, but he resigned before the process could start.

Kristen Reesor

Photo: Google

How Presidents are ImpeachedThe U.S. Constitution created the standard of impeachment to ensure that an official of the judicial or executive branch may be removed from office if they meet the grounds of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. How presidents are impeached is an extensive process.

It begins in the House of Representatives, which reserves the sole power of impeachment. This means that for an impeachment trial to begin, it must be initiated in a declaration by a member of the House. In promoting such a declaration, though, the process can be encouraged by the judicial conference of the U.S., an independent counsel, the president, a state or territorial legislature, a grand jury or a petition.

The House examines all charges of impeachment before putting it to vote, usually by the House Committee on the Judiciary. That committee then needs a majority vote confirming allegations of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors for the impeachment to be proposed to the full House.

If it is brought to the full House, the committee presents all specific allegations to be voted on. The House can vote on each article of misdemeanor separately, or the overall accusation, and if the majority votes for impeachment then managers are selected to bring the case to Senate.

There is no set definition for what these allegations should include, which can make it difficult to determine how presidents are impeached, but it is widely accepted that impeachment should only be considered in cases of a clear disregard for duty, whether criminal or otherwise.

Any formal accusation, by majority vote, is considered impeachment. This often-overlooked definition means that in the notable case of Bill Clinton, for instance, he never was convicted but he was impeached in 1998 when the Republican-controlled House voted to bring the allegations against him to the Senate.

By contrast, Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before he could be impeached by the House, let alone convicted by the Senate.

The sole power to try all impeachments is held by the U.S. Senate, and the proceedings are similar to a case held in court. The managers are chosen by the House present evidence to either the full Senate or a chosen subcommittee on a set trial date, providing witnesses and opening and closing arguments.

Each article of impeachment is voted on separately by the Senate as a whole, and one or more must obtain a two-thirds vote for conviction. Any convicted officer will be removed from office, but the Senate can vote on whether they are barred from holding any other office of public trust under the United States (in which case they only require a majority vote).

This is how presidents are impeached, and if it is a different official being removed from office, the president does not have the ability to pardon them.

Brooke Clayton

Photo: Flickr

How to Remove a U.S. President from Office
The American government provides avenues on how to remove a U.S. president from office. These are the three primary reasons: criminal activity, inability to perform presidential duties and lack of party and public popularity.

Criminal Activity

One way to remove a U.S. president from office is through impeachment and consecutive conviction. This method is intended to be implemented should the president commit a crime. The president has the same rights of due process as any other legal defendant, and therefore must be indicted of an actual crime, which involves violating a law that was passed prior to him committing the crime.

The impeachment process requires agreement between both legislative bodies. The House of Representatives requires a simple majority, more than 50% of the vote, to impeach. The Senate requires a two-thirds majority.

Congress has impeached two presidents in the nation’s history. Congress impeached the 17th president, Andrew Johnson, after he replaced Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton with General Ulysses S. Grant because this violated the Tenure of Office Act.

Congress impeached the 42nd president Bill Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice following Clinton’s testimony of his extramarital affair during a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by Arkansas state employee Paula Jones.

Congress did not convict Johnson nor Clinton, however, and they remained in office.

Inability to Perform Presidential Duties

Another enumerated power which facilitates the removal of a U.S. president is the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment allows the president to voluntarily step aside if he feels he may be physically or emotionally unable to perform presidential duties.

The amendment states the president’s cabinet may transfer the powers of the president to the vice president as determined by a majority vote. If the president challenges this decision, Congress determines whether to restore the president to power. In the absence of a two-thirds vote in both houses, the president returns to power. Congress has never fully implemented this method of removal.

This provision of the 25th Amendment, implemented as a safeguard should the president become unable to fulfill his duties, works as a contingency if the president becomes incapacitated or unable to resign. This provision also applies if the president is captured or kidnapped and unable to act or if concerns arise that the president may not be mentally able to continue his term.

Lack of Party and Public Popularity

Last but not least, the president could be denied a second term in one of two ways: by the president’s own party, should it choose to nominate someone else in the next presidential election, or by voters who contribute to the president’s loss in the next election.

Since World War II, three U.S. presidents have lost the election for their second term: presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush.

The government provides multiple avenues on how to remove a U.S. president from office. These account for the variety of circumstances which may warrant a removal.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

 Impeaching a President
Article two, section four of the U.S. Constitution states that a president may be removed from office through the process of impeachment “for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Formal criteria for impeaching a president begins in the House of Representatives and is delegated among the House Judiciary Committee. If the House Judiciary Committee finds an appropriate reason for bringing formal charges against the president, a vote is taken within the House requiring a single vote for approval.

Once approved, the House Judiciary Committee gathers all evidence and witness testimony necessary for an inquiry. The Committee Counsel, the Minority Committee and the House Judiciary Committee carry out witness interrogations, then prepare articles of impeachment detailing the offenses. Committees then cast a final vote and deliver results to the House for deliberation. If the articles of impeachment reach approval, the president is indicted and a motion for trial goes to the Senate.

During an impeachment trial, the Senate serves as the jury, with the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice presiding. Members of Congress are appointed as managers, or prosecutors. Successful impeachment is decided by a two-thirds majority vote from the Senate, thus removing the sitting president from office and replacing him with the vice president.

Impeaching a president requires thorough deliberation by Congress, though what definitively constitutes an impeachable offense is questionable. Congressman Gerald Ford (1970) described an impeachable offense as “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” The complexity of impeachment explains why only three presidents — Johnson (1868), Nixon (1974) and Clinton (1998) — have gone through impeachment proceedings.

Congress structured the criteria for impeaching a president so that a sitting president can be held accountable for their actions. Following the election season and recent presidential inauguration, President Trump is facing extensive scrutiny regarding looming lawsuits, foreign business deals and the withholding of federal tax returns. However, to date, there is no evidence that impeachment proceedings will be pursued.

Amy Williams

Photo: Flickr

Ways to Remove a President from Office: Articles of Impeachment

Only a few times in U.S. history has an attempt been made to remove a president from office. It is an uncommon act for Congress to undertake due to the extraordinary burden of proof necessary to prove wrongdoing. Article 2.4 of the Constitution of the United States spells out the circumstances for the articles of impeachment to be issued as: “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

These terms are rather broad and unspecific. To clarify, legal scholar Ronald Arthur Lowry states four interpretations that lead to ways to remove a president from office.

Congressional Interpretation

Articles 1.2 and 1.3 of the Constitution grant powers to the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively, to issues articles of impeachment. Congress has the ability to interpret the evidence and collectively decide if impeachment proceedings are necessary.

“The only honest answer is that an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given time in history; conviction results from whatever offense or offenses two-thirds of the body considers to be sufficiently serious to require removal of the accused from office…” said Congressman Gerald Ford in 1970.

The last time this occurred was the attempted impeachment of John Tyler in 1842. He vetoed a bill and angered lawmakers who then attempted impeachment as retribution. The attempt failed.

In exploring ways to remove a president from office, this is the least common application of Article 2.4. The application of this interpretation would mean that the president is serving at the pleasure of Congress.

An Indictable Crime

The second view is based on the interpretation that Article 2.4 relates to an indictable crime that must be present. Article 3.2 section 3 confirms the idea that the Constitution views impeachment as a criminal offense and “the trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by a jury.”

President Richard Nixon fell into this category and it is believed by U.S. politics expert Tom Murse that if it was not for Nixon’s resignation, he certainly would have been impeached because of indictable crimes relating to the Watergate scandal.

Misdemeanor

The third perspective is what many legal scholars deem the most applicable. The perspective is that when exploring ways to impeach, only a misdemeanor offense is necessary to initiate proceedings. The original wording of Article 2.4 was “treason, bribery, or corruption.”

Corruption was eventually removed and replaced with “high crimes and misdemeanors.” When the Constitution was ratified, the term misdemeanor had no criminal connotation. According to Lowry, that is what makes this the most popular application of Article 2.4.

Relating to the President’s Official Duties

The last interpretation states that no indictable crime needs to be present. The impeachable offense can be a “bad act or may not be a crime but it would be more serious than simple maladministration.”

A successful impeachment has never occurred in the U.S., and Murse believes the reason for this is that it is a huge political undertaking for Congress. It needs to consider both the extraordinary burden of proof and the consequences that will come as a result of removing a democratically elected president.

However, it is through the above four interpretations that Congress can identify the ways to remove a president from office.

Brian Faust

Photo: Flickr