How Does the Impeachment Process Actually Work?


It seems every day that there is more news that pertains to the possible impeachment of President Trump.

Between his extreme actions and outspoken ways, it’s a strong possibility that impeachment proceedings will continue. What constitutes an impeachable offense?

What is impeachment

What is the Impeachment Process?

The idea for ‘impeachment’ as drafted by the Framers of the Constitution was to remove a President from office who was engaged in unlawful activity.

Technically the house and Senate can impeach President Trump purely for purely political reasons, but the standard by which to get sufficient votes in the House and Senate is whether high crimes and misdemeanors have been committed.

The phrase is from Section 4 of Article 2 of the United States Constitution:

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. 

Trump Isn’t the First President to Commit Crimes

The U.S. Constitution requires that a two-thirds supermajority convict a person in the Senate because it wants the removal to be a high burden. Impeachment is a valuable tool to remove a President from office for unlawful conduct when the evidence is overwhelming.

On August 9, 1974, Nixon resigned in the face of almost certain impeachment due to  overwhelming evidence against him.

The impeachment of Bill Clinton was initiated on October 8, 1998, when the United States House of Representatives voted to commence impeachment proceedings against him, but lack of evidence acquitted him during a trial in the Senate. 

Most Americans today misunderstand what constitutes an impeachable offense  because politicians in the current era have tried to dilute the meaning of  the word. It is therefore important for American citizens to read the actual text of the U.S. Constitution to learn the law.

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

While the words ‘treason’ and  ‘bribery’ are unambiguous, the phrase ‘other high crimes and misdemeanors’ is not. This phrase identifies a category of misconduct by a public  official that is not necessarily criminal. That is to say that the word ‘misdemeanor’ can merely be an offense against the public  trust, that allows a person to be removed from office.

This ambiguity in the text has allowed the process of impeachment to become politicized, more so than previously, in this highly charged political environment of 2019.  

It looks like we’ll have to stay to see what the future brings from Trump. For any more answers to your legal questions, please reach out to David Reischer on his website.