Impeachment can be described as an escape route for Congress if they determine a president is unfit for office. The plan for impeachment is laid out in Article II of the constitution that also sets up the executive branch.
The key clause in Article II is: “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.”
While this clause says crimes, it is commonly understood to include violating the oath of office.
Impeachment is not the same as removal from office. A president may be impeached but not removed from office.
What other presidents have been impeached and what did they do?
This is not the first time a president has faced the threat of impeachment.
The first president impeached was Andrew Johnson. He was impeached because he violated the tenure of office act. Though Johnson was impeached, he was not removed from office.
President Bill Clinton was impeached, but not removed from office. The Clinton impeachment was based on the accusations he lied under oath and obstructing justice.
President Richard Nixon was threatened impeachment as a result of the Watergate scandal. Nixon resigned before Congress could officially impeach him.
What is the oath of office?
The oath of office is the oath the president takes before starting a term. It reads:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
Steps to impeach a president and where are we in the process?
First, the Congress investigates, or inquires, into the acts of the president (for example, the impeachment inquiries last month).
Second, the House of Representatives must pass the articles of impeachment by a simple majority. The president is then pronounced “impeached.”
Congress has introduced articles of impeachment and will vote. If a majority of Representatives approve the articles of impeachment, President Trump will become the third U.S. President impeached. If a simple majority vote against the articles of impeachment the process ends.
Following approval of articles of impeachment, the Senate holds a trial for the President. The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court presides over that trial.
The Senate requires a two-thirds vote in favor of conviction before a president is removed from office.
What is President Trump accused of?
According to the articles of impeachment, released by the House of Representatives, President Trump is accused of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Abuse of power: According to the Articles of impeachment, “President Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process.” The allegation is that Trump essentially blackmailed the Ukrainian president into looking into a political opponent, Joseph Biden, by threatening the suspension of aid for Ukraine military.
Obstruction of Congress: According to the articles of impeachment, “without lawful cause or excuse, President Trump directed Executive Branch agencies, offices, and officials not to comply with those subpoenas.” Basically Trump instructed many government officials that were called to testify to not testify and he withheld documents from the public.