How to impeach a president
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How to impeach a president

When America’s founding fathers were debating
how to set up a brand-new government, they ran into a problem:
What should happen if a president, in Benjamin Franklin’s words, has “rendered himself
obnoxious?” Most countries didn’t have elected leaders. Or ways to get rid of them, if necessary. So Franklin and the framers turned to a provision
of British common law known as impeachment: Trial, conviction, punishment. In Great Britain, impeachment could be brought
against anybody, any citizen. And it also could result in any punishment,
including death. Michael Gerhardt is a constitutional law professor
who literally wrote the book in impeachment. So they put impeachment in the constitution
and then set up a whole series of unique american features in it. The constitution lays out three offenses for
which any federal official, including the President, can be impeached. The first two, treason and bribery, are pretty
straightforward. Treason means helping enemies of the United
States. Bribery, taking money or gifts in exchange
for a political favor. And the last phrase, other high crimes and
misdemeanors, is not defined in the constitution But these were thought to be serious offenses
against the Republic, and serious breaches of trust. For three U.S. presidents, Andrew Johnson,
Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton, the question of whether to impeach and remove them from
office centered around whether their behavior fit in this third category of high crimes
and misdemeanors. The process of Impeachment has to start in
the House of Representatives. Any member can introduce an impeachment resolution. A resolution, that President George W. Bush
be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors But plenty, like this one, go nowhere. That’s because impeachment charges, have
to be approved by a majority of the House Judiciary Committee. Next, the full House of Representatives votes
on whether to impeach. If a simple majority votes yes, the President
is officially impeached. But that doesn’t mean they lose the presidency. That decision happens in a Senate trial. The Senators act as the jury. They hear evidence from both sides
And if 67% of those Senators vote to to convict, the President is removed from office. This has never actually happened. In 1863, a House majority voted to impeach
Andrew Johnson for firing is Secretary of War. This was after months of conflict after Reconstruction
following the civil war. The only other president impeached by the
House was Bill Clinton in 1998. But in both cases, not enough Senators voted
to actually remove them from office. Johnson was only one vote short, but in Clinton’s
case, it wasn’t even close The Respondent, William Jefferson Clinton,
is not guilty as charged in the Senate article of impeachment. That’s because votes in Clinton’s impeachment
in the House and trial in the Senate were split almost completely by party. part of the disagreement within the Senate
had to do with the context in which Clinton’s actions had taken place. The whole thing started when Clinton was sued
for sexual harassment by a woman named Paula Jones, who worked for him when he was Governor
of Arkansas. In a deposition for that case, Jones’ lawyers
asked Clinton if he’d had a sexual relationship with a different employee– a White House
intern named Monica Lewinsky. Clinton said he hadn’t. I did not have sexual relations with that
woman. Ms. Lewinsky. But that wasn’t true. I had intimate contact with her that was inappropriate. The house will be in order. Republicans in the house argued Clinton should
be impeached for lying under oath. What the defenders want to do is lower the
standards by which we judge this president, and lower the standards for our society by
doing so. Democrats disagreed that the offense was serious
enough to be called a “high crime.” At one point, they walked out of the chamber
in protest. There is one small segment on the far-right,
who have lost all objectivity, and are determined to impeach the President at all costs. House Resolution 6, 11, resolved, that William
Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, is impeached, for high crimes and
misdemeanors. But Clinton’s popularity didn’t really
suffer. There was not a sense the American people
are demanding that he be tossed out of office. Not a single Democratic Senator voted to remove
Clinton from office. Typically, you need to have members of more
than one party That’s one of the major differences between
Clinton’s case and President Richard Nixon’s. Over the course of several months in 1973,
members of Congress, and the American people, learned about Nixon’s possible involvement
in a break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee. By the time the charges had been shown to
have some evidence supporting them, the public began to kind of render a judgement against
Nixon, which was, his popularity plummeted. That evidence came out because Republicans,
members of Nixon’s own party, in both the House and Senate, called for investigations
into the President’s behavior. In the House Judiciary Committee, Republicans
joined with Democrats to approve Articles of Impeachment against Nixon. But Nixon resigned before the full house could
vote on impeachment because Republican leaders had told him there was no way he’d survive. Which explains why no president has ever been
removed from office by impeachment. For that to happen, the president doesn’t
just have to commit some high crime or misdemeanor. He has to lose his own party. In which case, history suggests he’ll see
himself out.


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