There has been a lot of talk about impeachment this week. Most of it stemming from the Trump Regime’s dealings with Russia. Mostly this is being discussed on the left side of the political spectrum while the right is doing all they can to ignore it. Also, there seems to be confusion, especially to younger Americans, about what impeachment actually does.
Just because a president is impeached does not mean they are out of office. All that impeachment does is essentially charge the president with a crime. It is also handled by the House of Representatives.
Two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached. A third (Richard Nixon) was on the way to being impeached but he resigned. In the case of Johnson and Clinton neither man was convicted of charges and were left in office.
A Brief Background on Impeachment
Only the House of Representatives can actually impeach a president. Impeachment has to first pass through the House Committee on Rules and then through the House Committee on the Judiciary. If the articles of impeachment make it through the committees with a majority vote then it moves on to the House. In the House they can either vote on each article of impeachment separately (if there is more than one) or fully. To impeach a president the vote only needs to be a majority of the vote.
From this point the impeachment moves on to the Senate. Once a president has been impeached the proceedings in the Senate play out just like a trial. Managers from the House present their case to the Senate. Most noteworthy in order to convict, the Senate must vote in a 2/3 majority. If a president is convicted they are immediately removed from office.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the judicial branch cannot rule on impeachment issues.
Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment
The one common theme between Johnson and Clinton is that both impeachments were completely political. With Johnson’s impeachment the House of Representatives (controlled by Republicans) were looking for any reason to get Johnson out of office. The disagreement between Johnson and the Republicans over Reconstruction started the ill will.
In 1867 Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act specifically designed to hamper Johnson’s hiring and firing of post positions. Within the next year Johnson fired the Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton.
On March 2, 1868 the House impeached Johnson on 10 counts. The 10th count is very telling about how political the impeachment was as it specifically faulted Johnson for giving three speeches in which he disrespected Congress.
There was a vote on only four of the articles for conviction. Consequently, one article failed to get a majority and the other three saw a majority vote for conviction (35-19) but failed to reach the necessary 2/3 majority vote.
Bill Clinton’s Impeachment
Most people joke that Bill Clinton was impeached because of a blow job. That is not completely inaccurate. Four initial articles were presented to the House in 1998. The House impeached Clinton on two articles. One for perjury and one for obstruction of justice. On the charge of perjury Clinton said under oath that he had never had physical sex with Monica Lewinsky only oral.
In February of 1999 Clinton was acquitted on both articles of impeachment. 67 votes were needed for conviction. On the article of obstruction of justice 50 Senators voted for conviction. Oddly enough, only 45 voted to convict Clinton on the perjury article.
Impeachment is not easy
So, if the House ever decides to impeach Trump (which probably will not happen unless Democrats win control of the House in the 2018 election) that does not mean that Trump is out of office. If Trump is impeached he would still need to go through a trial in the Senate and the Senate would need to convict him on those charges by a 2/3 majority vote. I am not saying that it will not happen, I am just saying it is not going to happen in the next week, or even months.