What is Impeachment?

The United States Constitution states: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office upon impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” According to Black’s Law Dictionary, treason is defined as “the offense of attempting to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance.” Bribery is defined as “the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official, or other person, in charge of a public or legal duty.” (Black’s Law Dictionary). Other high crimes and misdemeanors has not been specifically defined, but abuse of power, obstruction of Congress, and obstruction of justice have been associated under this branch.

Impeachment is defined as the process of bringing charges to remove the United States President, Vice President, and all civil officers from office for crimes of treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors. A simple majority vote in the House is required to bring charges of impeachment. If a majority vote in the House invokes charges, a trial is held by the Senate.

Many people hear the words “trial”, “conviction”, and “charges” and believe impeachment involves criminal prosecution. The Impeachment process itself has nothing to do with criminal prosecution. This will be further explained below. However, if a public official is convicted and removed from office, he or she can be disqualified from ever holding any federal office position in the future.

The Trial

If the impeachment process reaches the trial stage, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, currently John Roberts, Jr. will preside over the proceeding. A two-thirds vote in the Senate is necessary to convict and remove a public officer from office. This consists of 67 of the 100 members.

The Senate essentially becomes the judge and jury of the trial as they listen to the evidence presented before coming to a decision on whether to convict or not. The House plays the role of the prosecution, presenting the evidence the Senate evaluates. 

What Happens if a Civil Officer is Removed?

If a civil officer is impeached, convicted, and removed from office, be it a federal judge or the President of the United States, he or she can then be subject to criminal prosecution if he or she violated a federal law – such as bribery or treason.

The United States History of Presidential Impeachment

The first President to ever be impeached occurred in 1868 when the House impeached Andrew Johnson for dismissing a public official from office after the Senate voted against his dismissal and ordered him reinstated. However, the Senate did not convict Johnson and he was not removed from office. Over 100 years later, in 1998, the House impeached Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. Again, the Senate did not convict Clinton and he was not removed from office. Notably, neither of these former Presidents were re-elected in the next Presidential term.

Many people believe former President Richard Nixon was impeached in 1974 for the infamous Watergate Scandal. However, Nixon was recommended for impeachment, but Nixon resigned from office before the House was able to reach an impeachment resolution.

President Donald J. Trump was impeached by the House on December 18, 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. A trial is expected to take place before the Senate within the next month.

If you would like further explanation of the law, or are in need of a personal injury lawyer or catastrophic injury lawyer in Las Vegas, NV, please call a law office today.

Thanks to Eglet Adams for their insight into the impeachment process.