Impeachment is the process by which a public official, such as the President of the United States, can be removed from office for committing “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Origin of “Impeachment”
This process is outlined in the United States Constitution and is one of the checks and balances built into the American political system to prevent abuse of power by government officials.
The process of impeachment begins in the House of Representatives, where members can introduce articles of impeachment against the official in question.
These articles must be voted on by a simple majority of members in the House, and if at least one article is approved, the official is considered to be impeached.
Once an official has been impeached, the case is then sent to the Senate for trial.
The Senate acts as a court, with the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court presiding over the trial. A two-thirds majority vote is required in the Senate in order to convict the impeached official and remove them from office.
The Constitution does not specify what constitutes “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” so the determination of whether an official’s actions warrant impeachment is ultimately up to the discretion of the House of Representatives.
This has led to some controversy and debate over the years, as the definition of these terms can be open to interpretation.
Impeachment is a serious matter and should not to be undertaken lightly. It is intended to be used as a last resort, when all other avenues for holding an official accountable for their actions have been exhausted.
It is seen as a way to protect the American people from officials who abuse their power and undermine the rule of law.
In the history of the United States, only a handful of officials have been impeached, and even fewer have been convicted and removed from office.
There are two notable recent examples of impeachment. One was for President Bill Clinton, who was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1998 but was subsequently acquitted by the Senate in 1999. The other was for Donald Trump, who was impeached twice while in office, but acquitted by the Senate both times.
Impeachment can also occur at the state level, according to their respective state constitutions.
The impeachment process should not be confused with a recall election which is usually initiated by voters.
Use of “Impeachment” in a sentence
- The House of Representatives voted to impeach the President on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
- The Senate will now hold a trial to determine whether the President should be removed from office.
- If the President is convicted in the Senate, he will become the first President in American history to be removed from office through the impeachment process.
Taegan Goddard is the creator of the Political Dictionary.
Goddard spent more than a decade on Wall Street as managing director and chief operating officer of a prominent investment firm in New York City. Previously, he also served as a policy adviser to a U.S. Senator and Governor.
Goddard is also co-author of You Won – Now What?: How Americans Can Make Democracy Work from City Hall to the White House, a political management book hailed by prominent journalists and politicians from both parties.
His essays on politics and public policy have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country.
Goddard earned degrees from Vassar College and Harvard University.
He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.