Throughout our history, only 2 United States Presidents have ever been impeached. President Andrew Johnson (1868) for violating the Tenure of Office Act; and, President William Clinton (1999) for perjury and obstruction of justice. Both were acquitted by the United States Senate. To date, a United States President has never been convicted and removed from office by the United States Senate.
Impeachment as defined by Black's Law Dictionary: A criminal proceeding against a public officer.
Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution of The United States : "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."
An Overview of Constitutional Provisions, Procedure, and Practice
The responsibility and authority to determine whether to impeach lies in the hands of the United States House of Representatives.[U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 2, clause 5]
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments . . . And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present. [U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 3, clause 6]
The Impeachment Process
In the House of Representatives
- The House Judiciary Committee decides whether or not to proceed with impeachment. If they do...
- The Chairman of the Judiciary Committee will propose a Resolution calling for the Judiciary Committee to begin a formal inquiry into the issue of impeachment.
- Based on their inquiry, the Judiciary Committee will send another Resolution to the full House stating that impeachment is warranted and why (the Articles of Impeachment), or that impeachment is not called for.
- The Full House (probably operating under special floor rules set by the House Rules Committee) will debate and vote on each Article of Impeachment.
- Should any one of the Articles of Impeachment be approved by a simple majority vote, the President will be "impeached." There still has to be a trial, which is where the US Senate comes in.
- The Articles of Impeachment are received from the House.
- The Senate formulates rules and procedures for holding a trial.
- A trial will be held. The President will be represented by his lawyers.
- The Senate will meet in private session to debate a verdict.
- The Senate, in open session, will vote on a verdict. A 2/3 vote of the Senate will result in a conviction.
- The Senate will vote to remove the President from office.
- The Senate may also vote (by a simple majority) to prohibit the President from holding any public office in the future.
For more on this topic visit our 'Law About' page on Federal Primary Law.