A Quick Guide to the Impeachment Process

Paige Braile Politics Feb 09, 2021

As the country gears up for a historic impeachment trial of President Trump, let’s brush up on the process. Contrary to popular belief, impeachment is not the same as removing someone from office. So, what exactly is impeachment, and how does it work?

Impeachment is the formal accusation to launch a trial to remove a government official from office. In order to understand how impeachment works, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the US branches of government. These branches exist to prevent abuse of power, but if they fail to do so, impeachment may help to rebalance the power.

In the US, impeachment is a power of Congress that can apply to any civil office. Although demands for impeachment may come from any citizen, members of the House of Representatives are the only people that are actually able to declare the official start of the impeachment process. Their reasons are outlined in the Articles of Impeachment.

When an impeachment accusation is declared, the House Committees review the situation, examine the evidence, and issue a recommendation. If they find and approve enough proof to continue, the House holds a separate vote on each specific charge in the Articles of Impeachment. If one or more of the articles wins with a majority, the case is brought to trial.

EXECUTIVE BRANCH - President LEGISLATIVE BRANCH - Congress JUDICIAL BRANCH - Supreme Court
Has the power to veto laws by congress Has the power to create and pass laws and override a president veto with a 2/3 majority Has the power to determine the constitutionality of laws

The Impeachment trial is held in the Senate. During that trial, selected members of the House act as the prosecution, the impeached official and their lawyers act as the defendant, and the Senate takes the position of the judge and jury. When the trial is voted on, and the results are a 2/3 majority in favor of revoking power, the official is convicted and taken out of office, but if the results fall short of 2/3 majority, the official is acquitted. In other words, a conviction trial must have a majority of 2/3 in the Senate in order for the official to be taken out of office.

In summation, the steps of the impeachment process are:

  1. Member of the House and Representatives declares impeachment
  2. House committees validate the Articles of Impeachment
  3. Trial takes place in the Senate
  4. If 2/3 majority vote occurs in the Senate, official is taken out of office

Of course, impeachment is a worse case-scenario that only occurs when Congress believes an abuse of power has taken place. However, it’s always important to know the functions of impeachment so if/when it happens, you can understand the events that are taking place.

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