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Impeachment 101

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Brush up on key terms

Quick Reference: FAQs

What is impeachment?

Impeachment is “the process of charging a public official, such as the U.S. president or a federal judge, with a crime or misconduct.”

Which Congressional chamber has the authority to impeach?

The House of Representatives has “sole impeachment power” in the federal government-no other body is able to impeach the President. You could compare this process to a grand jury indictment. If the House impeaches a President, they are saying there is enough evidence to hold a trial.

What role does the Senate play?

Impeachment is not the trial in the Senate. Impeachment only refers to the process of charging the President, not holding a trial on the charge or removing the President from office.

If the House impeaches the President, it moves to a trial in the Senate where the 100 Senators act as the jury. If a two-thirds majority vote to convict, then the President will be removed from office. It does not result in any criminal punishments, such as fees or jail time.

How can the House launch impeachment proceedings?

The House can pass two types of resolutions to launch impeachment proceedings: a flat resolution of impeachment or a resolution of inquiry.

  • A resolution of impeachment is quicker and passes through the House like an ordinary resolution and requires a simple majority before moving to the Judiciary Committee.
  • Impeachment proceedings that are launched with an inquiry take longer. In this process, the House passes a resolution of inquiry with a simple majority.

Here’s a breakdown of the process for both scenarios:

How many presidents have been impeached?

Two presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Both were acquitted during the trial in the Senate. Impeachment proceedings were launched against Nixon, but he resigned before the House could take the final vote to impeach him.