Impeachment has been a buzzword in the past weeks' political coverage. Yet many don't fully understand the meaning of and implications of the term. Here are nineteen things you need to know.
19. What Exactly IS Impeachment??
Impeachment is the congressional ability to remove a president or other high ranking official from office. The reasoning behind this removal can be accepting and/or giving bribes, committing treason, and “other high crimes and misdemeanors “. The House votes to impeach, and if they vote yes, then its up to the Senate.
18. What The Heck is A “High Crime or Misdemeanor”?
The inclusion of the phrase “other high crimes or misdemeanors” is Congress's little loophole. It provides the legislative branch flexibility in their decisions for a reason to impeach. High crimes or misdemeanors can mean perjury, or it could be manslaughter. The Constitution does not define the term, allowing Congress to decide whether a president is impeachable at their discretion.
17. Where Does Impeachment Come From?
Like many things in the US political system, we can thank jolly old England for impeachment. There is a clause in British government that allows parliament to investigate royal advisors and other high ranking officials to see if they need to be removed. This is what the founders modeled American impeachment on.
16. Yet One Official is Immune….
Interestingly enough, Parliament is not allowed to impeach the monarch. Kings and queens have been traditionally considered to be hand selected by a divine entity, making them effectively above the law. This was Charles I's argument against the Puritan Roundheads led by Oliver Cromwell in the 1600s. He lost his head for his troubles.
15. So How Do You Get Impeached?
Technically, an impeachment begins when the House formally votes for the Judiciary Committee to authorize impeachment proceedings. However, this is not always the case. In several impeachments of judges, there was no formal vote. There also wasn't a vote in the case of Donald Trump's impeachment.
14. What Role Does the Media Play?
As with all aspects of culture, there is an important question as to the role news coverage plays in the impeachment process. After all, if impeachments have taken place without an official House of Representatives vote, doesn't it stand to reason that many of those impeachments were caused by outside pressures? While the media has no official role, their breaking of stories of presidential bad behavior (i.e. Watergate) could result in the beginning of an impeachment.
13. How Does the Impeachment Process Work?
Any member of the House of Representatives can request for a president to be impeached. If the majority of the house agrees and votes to impeach, the query is moved along to the Senate. If in a trial presided by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court a two-thirds majority votes to impeach, the president is removed from office.
12. So How Many Presidents Have Been Impeached?
Counting Trump, three. Overall, twenty federal officials have been impeached by Congress. Fifteen were federal judges (thirteen district court judges, one court of appeals justice, and one Supreme Court Associate justice). Unlike Britain, the US constitution allows for no exceptions in the impeachment process.
11. Nixon Was One of the Two Other Than Trump Impeached, Right?
Wrong. Following the Watergate scandal, then-president Richard Nixon saw the writing on the wall. Rather than allow Congress to impeach him, he decided to resign from office. He was later pardoned by Gerald Ford.