Relevant Constitutional Provisions
Article I, Section 2, Clause 5
The House of Representatives…shall have the sole power of impeachment.
Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 and 7
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: and no Person shall be convicted without Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust of Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment according to Law.
Article II, Section 4
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 Explained
The Constitution gives the responsibility of impeachment to the House of Representatives. Impeachment of the President by the House does not remove the President from office. Only after the Senate tries and convicts a president are they removed from office. If the House of Representatives votes to impeach, the investigation moves to the Senate, whose responsibility is to begin Impeachment Trials. The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court oversees the proceedings and the Senate is comparable to a jury.
- Impeachment investigation begins in the House of Representatives
- Traditionally, the House Judiciary Committee, or another committee chosen by the Speaker of the House, begins an investigation into the wrongdoings of the president/individual.
- Once the committee has completed its investigation, there is a vote on the articles of impeachment. The majority of the members on the committee have to vote in favor of the articles in order for the information to move to the full House of Representatives for a vote.
- Each article of impeachment will then be introduced to the full house for a simple majority vote (50%+1)
- If any article (even one) gets a simple majority vote, the president is impeached in the House
- After thorough investigation, the House of Representatives has the power to impeach a president, and the Senate has the power to convict and remove the president from office
- Once this occurs, the senate will hear the case and must have a two-thirds majority to find the president guilty and remove him from office.
- Framers of the Constitution followed the British model of impeachment, in which the House of Commons brought charges against officials and the House of Lords carried out a trial.
- Framers of the Constitution decided that the House of Representatives would manage the prosecution of the President, and that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court would preside over the Senate during the trial.
- Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist 65 that impeachment is different from civil or criminal court trials as it deals with “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse of violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to society itself.”
How would you strengthen checks and balances in the U.S. Constitution for the different branches of government?