The House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump for the second time on January 13, 2021, making him the only president in U.S. history to face impeachment twice.
While former President Trump isn’t the first president to face impeachment, his second trial, and what comes next, is dominating headlines. Read on to learn more about the impeachment process.
Reasons for impeachment
Impeachment is when a legislative body levels charges against a high-ranking official. The term is typically connected with the president. The leader of the U.S. isn’t the only one who can face impeachment, though. It’s also possible for a vice president or another civil leader to get impeached too.
According to the United States Constitution, a president can face impeachment for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” In other words, the president (or another high-ranking official) needs to have committed a pretty serious offense. Congress can’t impeach the leader of the country just because they think they’re doing a bad job.
How does a president get impeached?
The impeachment process starts in the House of Representatives. According to the Constitution, the House has the sole power of impeachment, while the Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments.
If the House finds sufficient cause for impeachment, they must vote on one or more “articles of impeachment.” These are the resolutions that contain an explanation of the charges. A majority vote results in impeachment, and the articles move to the Senate. The Senate holds the trial and then votes on whether or not to convict the president.
What happens next depends on the results of the vote. If fewer than two-thirds of Senate members vote to convict the president, the leader remains in office. If the conviction receives more than two-thirds, the president gets removed.
Consequences of impeachment
If the Senate votes to convict a president following impeachment, the next step is removal from office. After they’re removed, they could lose some of the perks that former presidents receive, such as a pension, government-paid staff, and an annual budget for travel and security. They don’t lose access to Secret Service protection or burial in Arlington National Cemetery (if they meet the cemetery’s eligibility requirements), but the Senate decides whether or not they can run for office again in the future.
Can a president be impeached after leaving office?
With an impeachment vote set to take place after the inauguration of a new president, many are wondering, can a president be convicted after they’ve left office? Legal authorities have had a hard time agreeing, since there’s no historical precedent. House Democrats plan to send the article of impeachment to the Senate, and a trial will go forward unless senators reach an agreement to delay it.
Which presidents have faced impeachment?
President Trump isn’t the first president to face impeachment (although he is the first in US history to face it twice). There were a few others before him.
Bill Clinton was impeached after his affair with Monica Lewinsky became public in 1998. While he did lie to investigators, the Senate determined that his actions didn’t fit “high crimes or misdemeanors.”
Andrew Johnson, President Lincoln’s vice president, was the first U.S. president to face impeachment. He clashed with Congress on several occasions throughout his term, which eventually led to the House drafting eleven articles of impeachment against him. The case went to the Senate and he held onto his office by just one vote.
Other presidents faced calls for impeachment, but they never actually were impeached. Richard Nixon was the closest to these individuals to getting impeached, but he resigned from office before the process could move forward.
Impeachment isn’t a process that Congress can take lightly. The House needs to decide if the president has committed some pretty grievous acts, including “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” It can be a long process, but it holds the president accountable for their actions and helps to uphold the system of checks and balances in government.