Less than a handful of American presidents have been impeached in the history of the U.S.
Among those impeached was Bill Clinton following his affair with former intern Monica Lewinsky. The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal forms the subject of the latest American Crime Story television series, which premieres on September 7.
Impeachment can lead to removal from office and other potential consequences. The House of Representatives website explains: “The power of impeachment is limited to removal from office but also provides a means by which a removed officer may be disqualified from holding future office.
“Fines and potential jail time for crimes committed while in office are left to civil courts,” the website adds.
Who Can Be Impeached?
According to Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, the president, vice president and all civil officers of the U.S., can be “removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
How Does Impeachment Work?
The “sole Power of Impeachment”(as noted in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution) is given to the U.S. House of Representatives, meaning only the House can officially impeach an official, as noted at the website of the House of Representatives.
The House serves as a grand jury bringing charges against an official suspected of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” the website says.
The U.S. Senate holds “the sole Power to try all Impeachments” (as noted in Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution). This means the Senate is the only court that can hold impeachment trials.
Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution also states that “no person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present,” the Senate website says.
The Senate explains: “The House of Representatives charges an official of the federal government by approving, by simple majority vote, articles of impeachment.
“After the House of Representatives sends its articles of impeachment to the Senate, the Senate sits as a High Court of Impeachment to consider evidence, hear witnesses, and vote to acquit or convict the impeached official,” the website says.
How Many U.S. Presidents Have Been Impeached?
As of 2021, three U.S. presidents have been impeached, one of whom was impeached twice.
Johnson was impeached on February 24, 1868, on charges of “violating the Tenure of Office Act by removing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton from office,” as noted at the House website.
The Senate trial was held from February 25 to May 26 in 1868 and Johnson was acquitted.
The former president was impeached on December 19, 1998, on charges of “lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstruction of justice,” according to the House website.
Clinton initially claimed he “never had sexual relations” with Lewinsky, who was a 22-year-old unpaid intern at the time of the affair.
His impeachment trial was held by the Senate from January 7 to February 12 in 1999. Clinton was also acquitted.
Trump was the only president to have been impeached twice. He was first impeached on December 18, 2019 on charges of “abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.”
He was impeached a second time on January 13, 2021 on “the charge of incitement of insurrection,” following the riots at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 this year.
Trump was acquitted in both impeachment trials, which were held from January 16 to February 5 in 2020 and from February 9 to 13 in 2021.