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Informer: Impeachment process starts in US House

Last Modified: Saturday, October 26, 2013 5:34 PM

By Andrew Perzo / American Press

How does someone go about impeaching a president, and has there been any president in the history of the United States that has been impeached?

Two presidents have been impeached, another likely would have been and seven others had impeachment charges filed against them.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Abraham Lincoln, was impeached, or formally accused, by the House of Representatives on Feb. 24, 1868. Lawmakers brought charges against him after he sacked the secretary of war without Senate approval, a violation of a recently passed law designed to keep Lincoln’s men in office. He was acquitted in the Senate by one vote.

Bill Clinton was accused of perjury and obstruction of justice for denying, under oath, that he had a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky and was impeached on Dec. 19, 1998. He too was acquitted.

The Watergate break-in led the House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974, to recommend the impeachment of Richard Nixon. But the president, hobbled by accusations of cover-up, resigned from office about two weeks later, before the full House could vote on the issue.

John Tyler, Grover Cleveland, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush have all had charges against them introduced into the House of Representatives.

The process

The U.S. Constitution says the House has “the sole Power of Impeachment” — similar to a grand jury’s indictment power — and that the Senate has “the sole Power to try all Impeachments.”

The impeachment process begins with a House member filing a resolution listing charges or requesting an investigation into grounds for impeachment. The resolution is then sent to the Judiciary Committee, which looks into the matter.

“The focus of the impeachment inquiry is to determine whether the person involved has engaged in treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” reads a 2005 Congressional Research Service overview of the process.

“If the House Committee on the Judiciary, by majority vote, determines that grounds for impeachment exist, a resolution impeaching the individual in question and setting forth specific allegations of misconduct, in one or more articles of impeachment, will be reported to the full House.”

If the full House votes to impeach, representatives are selected to handle the trial, which is held before the Senate and presided over by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict, and the penalty for an impeached official is removal from office,” reads a page on the Senate’s website. “In some cases, disqualification from holding future offices is also imposed. There is no appeal.”

Federal judges are also subject to impeachment. The most recent case involved Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Porteous, appointed to the federal bench in 1994, faced four articles of impeachment that alleged corruption and was convicted on Dec. 8, 2010. He was removed from his post and was barred from ever holding federal office.


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The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email

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