The United States Constitution states in Article
II, Section 4: "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."
Thus far in the history of the United States there been
three Presidential impeachment proceedings -- in 1868 against President Andrew
Johnson for his removal of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in violation of the
Tenure of Office Act - 1974 against President Richard Richard Nixon for the
Watergate coverup (106 years after Johnson) - 1998-99 against President Bill
Clinton for concealing an extramarital affair (24 years after Nixon).
Modern Impeachment Procedure:
- Impeachment resolutions made by members of the
House of Representatives are turned over to the House Judiciary Committee
which decides whether the resolution and its allegations of wrongdoing
by the President merits a referral to the full House for a vote on launching
a formal impeachment inquiry.
- The entire House of Representatives votes for
or against a formal impeachment inquiry, needing only a simple majority
(a single vote) for approval.
- If approved, the House Judiciary Committee conducts
an investigation to determine (similar to a grand jury) if there is enough
evidence to warrant articles of impeachment (indictments) against the President.
The Committee then drafts articles of impeachment pertaining to specific
charges supported by the evidence. The Committee votes on each article
of impeachment, deciding whether to refer each article to the full House
for a vote.
- If the House Judiciary Committee refers one or
more articles of impeachment, the entire House of Representatives votes
on whether the article(s) merit a trial in the Senate, needing only a simple
majority for approval.
- If the full House approves at least one article
of impeachment, the President is technically impeached and the matter is
referred to the U.S. Senate. The House then appoints members of Congress
to act as managers (prosecutors).
- The trial of the President is held in the Senate
with the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court presiding. The President
can be represented by anyone he chooses. He may appear personally or leave
his defense in the hands of his lawyers.
- The entire Senate may conduct the trial or it
or it may be delegated to a special committee which would report all the
evidence to the full Senate.
- The actual trial is conducted in a courtroom-like
proceeding including examination and cross-examination of witnesses. During
questioning, Senators remain silent, directing all questions in writing
to the Chief Justice.
- After hearing all of the evidence and closing
arguments, the Senate deliberates behind closed doors then votes in open
session on whether to convict or acquit the President. The vote to convict
must be by a two thirds majority, or 67 Senators. If this occurs, the President
is removed from office and is succeeded by the Vice President. The Senate's
verdict is final and there is no right of appeal.
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