What actually happens when a president is impeached?

Impeach- to charge someone with doing something wrong, specifically a high ranking government official, such as the US president, a senator, or a Federal judge.

Wait…so that doesn’t mean he’s ejected from the White House??

Say it louder for the people in the back: impeachment is the process, not the result.

Only two U.S. Presidents—Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton—have been impeached (neither convicted, both acquitted by the senate).  [Nixon resigned rather than face conviction.]

Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution 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.”

The process itself takes months to years to develop.

  1. The House Judiciary Committee (or an independent counsel) drafts articles of impeachment.
  • The 25th Amendment states that if the vice president and cabinet officials deem a president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” Congress may remove them.
  1. As per the Constitution, the full House has “the sole Power of Impeachment,” which means each and every article of impeachment requires a simple majority vote.
  2. It is the Senate that has “the sole Power to try all Impeachments,” (which the chief justice of the United States must preside over) and a two-thirds majority vote is needed to convict.
  3. Congress can still stop short of an impeachment or call for lesser sanction or censure (which means threat of punishment and public disapproval).
  4. If achieved, punishment includes removal from office, and possible “disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.”
  • It’s important to note that Impeachment is a political and not criminal process so no one ends up in prison.
  1. In the (seemingly unlikely and far-reaching) event Trump is impeached, Vice President Mike Pence immediately takes the Oath of Office and becomes President.
  2. In the (astronomical) event Pence is also impeached, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan immediately takes the Oath of Office and becomes President. (For a full list of current potential successors click this link: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/presidential-order-succession-case-article-1.2973129)

Does this mean you should give up your dreams of Trump being removed from office?  No.  If the process was easy we’d be impeaching presidents left and right (which wouldn’t make for a very stable government now would it).

What this means is two things:

  1. Be vigilant citizens. Consume as many news sources as possible, to get as close to the truth as possible. Do I believe in fake news? Sure, TMZ exists. However, I believe that in this on-demand nation there is too much pressure to release a story, and not the whole story or the right story.  And I believe in human error.  Remember: it’s healthy to be skeptical and it’s powerful to be knowledgeable.
  2. Be hopeful citizens. Whether you hope Trump leaves office or stays for eight years, hope that our elected officials do their job of investigating, processing and acting on what’s right for the American people.

Impeachment is turmoil and I hope everyone is prepared for the process, and what it will mean for the future of our country.

-MK

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