American Impeachment Explained

The Process of Impeachment and Removal in American Politics


Ava Kitzi, Copy Editor

Over the past month, news sites and radio shows have been overwhelmed with the fast-emerging scandal involving President Donald Trump and the country of Ukraine. An anonymous whistleblower complaint has turned into a full-blown impeachment inquiry for Trump. The statement claims that the President coerced Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in turn for military aid, an extremely illegal offense. Transcripts of a phone call between Trump and President Volodymyr Zelenksy shows that Trump did in fact ask Ukraine to help him and interfere in the 2020 presidential election, in which Biden will potentially become the Democratic candidate. These accusations come just months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election concluded. 

The process of impeachment in America can be a meandering, long path and without a deep understanding of American politics, can be very hard to understand. The process of impeachment starts when a member of the House of Representatives brings forward an impeachment resolution, or a statement saying they would like to impeach the president. The resolution is then assigned to a House committee, where members research the president’s alleged offense. The committee then votes on whether or not the resolution is worth pursuing further. If they decide it is, the full House of Representatives votes. If they conclude with a simple majority(51%) that the president is guilty of an impeachable offense, they are officially impeached. However, unlike what many Americans think, this does not mean the president is removed from office. The president would then have to go through a trial in the Senate. With a super majority of 67% believing the president is guilty, he or she would then officially be removed from office. The most powerful position in America would then be shifted to the Vice President, followed by the Speaker of the House. 

Only two United States Presidents have ever been impeached. Andrew Johnson, 17th president of the US, broke the law by removing the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, without the go-ahead from Congress. This violated the Tenure of Office Act. Johnson was impeached in the House and was just one vote shy of being removed from office in the Senate. This debacle came just years after the civil war, when America was in a contentious period of reconstruction, prompting debate and controversy around the country. The only other President ever to be impeached is Bill Clinton, who resided in office between 1993 to 2001. Following the massive scandal in which Clinton had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinksy, the 42nd President lied under oath and persuaded others to lie as well, a major illegal offense. Though Clinton issued many formal apologies and has carried the burden of his wrongdoings with him throughout his life, he was acquitted in the Senate and allowed to carry out the rest of his second term. 

From the outside looking in, impeachment can seem messy, overcomplicated, or unobtainable. However, as the government continues down the path of impeachment for President Donald Trump, understanding the process is vital to staying informed in the goings-on of American politics.