Impeachment has become a buzzword in the media over the past week as the Democratic speaker of the House announced the opening of formal impeachment proceedings against the US president, citing abuse of power in a 25 July conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump allegedly pressured his Ukrainian colleague into launching a probe into former Vice President Joe Biden.
What is impeachment?
Impeachment is a process by which a legislative body presses charges against a government official, which may (or may not) result in their removal from office.
So, how does an impeachment procedure in the United States unfold? Here are the main steps:
- Impeachment is announced.
- House Committees present evidence of impeachable offences to the Judiciary Committee.
- If there is sufficient evidence, then the House of Representatives votes on whether or not to impeach the president.
- If a majority votes for impeachment, then the proceedings advance to the Senate.
- The Senate then holds a trial.
- If 2/3 of the Senate votes to convict the president, then the president is removed from office.
- However, if no evidence is presented to the Judiciary Committee, or either of the Houses vote not to impeach, then the president remains in office.
The first impeachment proceeding in the US took place in 1868 against President Andrew Johnson, but there were not enough votes in the Senate to impeach him.
President Nixon also faced impeachment following the notorious Watergate scandal, but he stepped down before the trial.
The latest impeachment attempt was against Bill Clinton in relation to the Monica Lewinsky case. However, this time the Senate did not gather enough support to remove the president from power either.