(ABC4 News) – Only two presidents in United States history- Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton- have ever been impeached.
So, it’s no surprise that many people are confused as to what actually happens during this rare process.
According to the History, Art and Archives of the United States House of Representatives, the founding fathers considered impeachment to be such a high priority that they included it in the United States Constitution before even outlining the duties of the president.
The idea of impeachment was adopted from the British parliament, who needed a way to hold the king’s ministers accountable for abuse of power or unfavorable actions. It was Alexander Hamilton who defined impeachment as “a method of national inquest into the conduct of public men” guilty of violating the “public trust.”
But how does this process actually work? How is it decided if a president has acted with such misconduct that he or she can no longer be trusted to act in their elected role? We put together a very simplified version of the process based on information from the Congressional Research Service.
The process is initiated when a House member submits a resolution calling for an impeachment. The Senate then conducts the trial of removing the accused person from office. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote in favor of impeachment for the process to move forward.
The House Impeachment Process
The House Impeachment process usually includes three steps. First, they initiate the impeachment process. Next, the Judiciary Committee conducts an investigation, hearings, and an in-depth consideration of the impeachment charges or “articles of impeachment.” This process is called a markup.
Finally, if the Judiciary Committee decides that impeachment is necessary, they will report a resolution for the full House to consider.
If the House approves the impeachment resolution, it will then appoint managers to present and argue the case to the Senate.
When the Senate has received the resolution from the House, the Senate informs the House when the managers can present the articles of impeachment to the Senate. After presenting this information to the Senate, the House will be invited back for the trial.
At the trial, the assigned managers from the House will present evidence against the accused person and will respond to defense and to questions from the Senators. As part of the trial, two- thirds of the senate must vote in favor of impeachment in order for the official to be removed from office.