Process to im­peach ex­plained

Lodi News-Sentinel - - LOCAL/NATION - By Joseph A. Gam­bardello

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.

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