Impeachment Explained

Key Points

  • Impeachment addresses charges of misconduct against a holder of public office.
  • The power of impeachment is for cases of treason, bribery, and other "high crimes and misdemeanors."
  • Only three presidents have been impeached, and none have been removed from office.
  • Impeachment is a power of the House of Representatives. Once impeached in the House, the trial happens in the Senate.


Impeachment is the legislative process of addressing alleged or proven charges of misconduct against someone holding public office. In the United States, the first thought that generally comes to mind when speaking on the matter is the impeachment of a U.S. President, although certain officials other than the president may also be impeached. The power of impeachment in the United States is listed in Article II Section 4 of the United States Constitution, which states that "the President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." Impeachment is a complicated topic, but for the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on the impeachment of a U.S. President.

One of the common misconceptions about impeachment is exactly what it is and which presidents have been impeached. The impeachment of a president is an incredibly rare phenomenon. In the history of the United States, only three presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump. Richard Nixon, a famous name that comes up in impeachment discussions, was never impeached due to the fact he resigned beforehand. Of the three presidents to be impeached, none of them have been convicted and removed from office.

Impeachment is a process. In accordance with the provisions of the U.S. Constitution, the House of Representatives is entrusted with the "sole Power of Impeachment" (Article I, Section 2, Clause 5) and the Senate has the "sole Power to try all Impeachments" (Article I, Section 3, Clause 6). In action, this creates a process that can be broken into three main steps.

First, the investigation. Investigation can begin anywhere. Once an investigation determines an impeachable offense may have been committed, the next step lands in the hands of the House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives is the body that impeaches. If the House passes one or more articles of impeachment by a simple majority, the official is considered impeached. What happens in the Senate does not change the status of the original impeachment, the Senate simply determines what happens next.

When the House impeaches, the articles of impeachment are delivered to the Senate for trial. During the trial, the Senate usually takes in the evidence and information presented to determine whether or not the impeached official is to be removed from office as well as whether or not they are to be disqualified from ever holding office again. The Senate does nothing more than that. Further indictments, trials, or judgments as deemed necessary may be carried out by the appropriate party in accordance with the law.

Basil E. Bacorn

Basil E. Bacorn is an author, artist, entrepreneur, and aspiring entertainer. He has written and published over ten books, including Geek Gods, The Book of Random Thoughts, The Circle's Problem, and the Dark's Descent Series, and has earned an associate's degree in Business and Entrepreneurial Studies.

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