Nov 30, 2019

Impeachment Facts

The media is throwing the term about as if the process is a criminal trial. Impeachable offenses are not necessarily illegal. It also does not mean the accused has been found guilty. Impeachment can be at the federal or state level. It is only a statement of charges, such as to an indictment in criminal law.

Impeachment is not a criminal trial. It is a political process. In fact, impeachment is actually two separate processes. The lower House of Representatives investigates and chooses to indict the president or charge him with offenses that could disqualify him from the presidency. The charges are referred to as articles of impeachment. The House of Representatives must pass, by a simple majority of those present and voting, articles of impeachment, which constitute the formal allegation or allegations. Upon passage, the defendant has been 'impeached'.

Removal, or conviction is the second process where the upper house Senate holds a trial and, by a two-thirds vote (for at least one article) of those present, can vote to remove the president from office.

Judgment in cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment, and Punishment, according to Law.

The process as outlined in the U.S. Constitution applies not only to the president, but to the vice-president and other officials, including governors and federal judges. Members of Congress have their own process and are exempt from impeachment and removal.

Impeachment does not mean a president has been found guilty of the charged offense(s).  The U.S. constitution states that disqualifying offenses for impeachment are “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” It does not define the term ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ which means that the House of Representatives and the Senate get to define those terms.

To date, just two presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Also, during the 1990s, first the House and Senate Banking Committees and then a Senate special committee investigated President and Mrs. Clinton’s involvement in the Whitewater land deal and related matters. The Senate had an enabling resolution; the House did not.

If a president is removed from office, the party they represent is still in power. For example, if President Trump ultimately is removed from office, Vice President Mike Pence would become president, and Republicans would still control the White House.

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