Five Facts on Impeachment

Five Facts on Impeachment

Last week, Special Counsel Robert Muller made a public statement that his nearly two-year investigation could not exonerate President Donald Trump from wrongdoing and that in his capacity he was not able to charge him with a crime. Following the report’s release earlier this year, Congress is now considering whether to proceed with impeachment hearings to remove President Trump from office.

Here are five facts on the impeachment process and what could happen from here.

1. The U.S. Constitutionoutlines that a sitting president can be removed from office through the impeachment process for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” A recent article in the New York Times highlights that the House of Representatives has the power to impeach a president by a simple majority vote. Following this vote, the Senate would try the president and two-thirds of this governing body would then have to vote to remove him or her from office. If this happens, the president’s term is automatically over.

2. Throughout U.S. history only Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton have been subject to impeachment proceedings, according to the New York Times. The House voted to impeach both Johnson and Clinton, yet they were ultimately both acquitted by the Senate. Nixon resigned from office before his impeachment moved forward, which historians believe would have all but certainly happened.

3. In the past, the House has also used its impeachment powers on leaders other than sitting presidents. Among those impeached include U.S. Sen. William Blount from Tennessee; in 1797, Blount was accused of working with Great Britain in the country’s attempt to take the Spanish-controlled territories of what today are Florida and Louisiana. U.S. Secretary of War William Belknap was impeached in 1876 on bribery charges. And a number of judges have also been impeached, including John Pickering in 1803, West Humphreys in 1862, Harold Louderback in 1933, and Samuel Kent in 2009.

4. Censure differs from impeachment in that it is not in the Constitution, only needs a majority vote in each chamber to pass, and does not forcibly removean elected official from his or her post. A House of Representatives website defines censure as expressing “the House’s deep disapproval of Member misconduct that, nevertheless, does not meet the threshold for expulsion.” The list of those who have been censured is long and includes President Andrew Jackson, Sen. Joseph McCarthy(R-WI), and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY).

5. The Supreme Court does not have the power to impeach a sitting president. The court's only role is overseeing the trial in the Senate held to judge if a president impeached by the House will be removed from office. According to POLITICO, in 1993 the Supreme Court ruled that only Congress has the ability to hold impeachment trials.