Early on in his presidency, it seemed like impeachment was too far off. But now, we’re past the six-month mark, and a Democratic representative has introduced the first articles of impeachment against Trump.
Representative Brad Sherman, who’s based in L.A., introduced the measure, HR 438, on Wednesday afternoon, which accuses Trump of committing obstruction of justice by firing FBI Director James Comey amid investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded, saying, “I think that is utterly and completely ridiculous, and a political game at its worst.”
Sherman knows his move is bold, and “the first step on a very long road.” Considering he doesn’t have the support of many fellow Democrats, it seems near-impossible he’ll be successful in the Republican-led house.
Still, Sherman’s actions have reignited the conversation around impeachment, and whether it’s actually possible to remove Trump from office. When Sherman describes it as a “very long road,” he’s right about that, and when you read on about exactly what it entails, you’ll realise why so few politicians go down this road.
What is impeachment?
Many people think impeachment is the removal of a senior government official from their role, but impeachment is actually when formal charges are brought against them.
Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘impeach’ as:
1. a) to bring an accusation against
b) to charge with a crime or misdemeanor; specifically : to charge (a public official) before a competent tribunal with misconduct in office
c) to remove from office especially for misconduct
2. to cast doubt on; especially : to challenge the credibility or validity of | impeach the testimony of a witness
Usually a president is impeached, but it can also happen to the vice president and other high-level politicians.
The U.S. constitution states in 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.”
Once an individual has been impeached in the House of Representatives, it goes to trial in the Senate. A two-thirds majority, or 67 of the 100 members of the Senate, is needed to convict and remove the president.
Basically, impeachment is the first step in removing a president from office.
Which U.S. presidents have been impeached before?
In the history of the United States, only two presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Neither was convicted of the charges filed against him, or removed from office.
President Johnson was the 17th President of the United States. His term ran from 1865 to 1869. He was accused of violating the Tenure of Office Act, but was acquitted in the Senate by one vote.
President Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on December 19, 1998, midway through his second term, on two charges: one of perjury, and one of obstruction of justice in relation to his extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky, then a 22-year-old White House intern.
The Senate acquitted Clinton of both charges after a trial. He made a public apology about the affair, saying, “Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.”
Many people think Richard Nixon was impeached for obstruction of justice with the Watergate scandal, but he resigned from office before that could happen. (His impeachment was in the works, though.) Nixon is the only president in U.S. history to resign during his presidency.