Process to impeach explained
Impeachment is a constitutional process under which an elected official, including the president, is charged with an offense or offenses warranting removal from office. To impeach is a term meaning to charge or to accuse, and articles of impeachment are in effect an indictment.
Q: What are impeachable offenses?
A: Impeachment and its potential repercussions are described in Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution: “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Generally, legal scholars say, high crimes and misdemeanors can be anything that the House determines rises to the level of abuse of office or violation of public trust. In 1970, then-congressman and future president, Gerald Ford, said: “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”
Q: What is the impeachment process?
A: House vote: The power to impeach rests with the House of Representatives under Article I, Section 2, Clause 5. There is no defined procedure for impeachment and it requires only a majority vote by the House. Any action preceding an impeachment vote, such as investigatory hearings, is up to the House to define and pursue. In recent times, that responsibility has fallen to the House Judiciary Committee after the House passed a resolution authorizing the panel to begin an investigation.
Senate trial: If the House votes to impeach a president, it is then up to the Senate to try the case.
1. The Constitution spells out two specific requirements in trying an impeached president:
2. The chief justice of the Supreme Court should preside instead of the vice president.
A vote of two-thirds of the senators “present” is needed to convict.
The Senate, over the years, has developed its own rules for handling impeachments, including the appointment of a small number of senators to operate as a trial committee to gather evidence and take testimony.