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The United States Constitution grants Congress the power to impeach the president, vice president, and any federal civil officer and remove them from office. The presidential impeachment process is one of the most powerful checks the Legislative Branch has over the president and other members of the Executive Branch.
Current and former presidents can be subjects of impeachment. The formal impeachment process starts in the House of Representatives but is ultimately decided when the Senate votes on whether to convict the president of wrongdoing.
The Constitution’s framers made removing a sitting president from office difficult yet possible under certain circumstances.
What does it mean when a president is impeached?
The Constitution says a president may be impeached for “treason, Bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” First, in order for the impeachment process to start, Congress launches an impeachment investigation, usually through the House Judiciary Committee, to evaluate whether articles of impeachment are warranted. However, this step was skipped during the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump.
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Next, the all-present representatives in the House must vote on formal articles of impeachment that clearly state the grounds for impeachment. A simple majority vote is required in order to pass the formal articles of impeachment, at which point the president would be definitively impeached. Impeachment is a permanent status that remains regardless of how the Senate votes.
What happens if the president is impeached?
After the president is impeached, the Senate must hold an impeachment trial overseen by the United States chief justice to determine whether the president should be removed from office based on the grounds for impeachment. To convict the president, a supermajority of two-thirds of those present must vote to convict.
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If two-thirds of senators vote to convict, the president is removed from office and disqualified from holding elected office in the future.
Which presidents were impeached?
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Congress has impeached only three presidents: Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump. The Senate acquitted all three presidents impeached by the House. However, former President Trump remains the only president to have been impeached twice during his first term in office.