Constitutional Law – Rules of Impeachment

Rules of Impeachment

im·peach·ment
imˈpēCHmənt/
noun
1. the action of calling into question the integrity or validity of something.
“the prosecutor’s detailed impeachment of the character witness”
o US
a charge of misconduct made against the holder of a public office.
“the president is facing impeachment over the scandal”
o BRITISH
a charge of treason or another crime against the state.
“the king cynically abandoned him, encouraging his impeachment”

Definition excerpt from Dictionary.com

The Law:
Article Two of the United States Constitution states in Section 4 that “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.” Interpretation of these words varies to a degree but it basically comes down to allegations of misconduct peculiar to officials, such as perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets, failure to supervise, dereliction of duty, unbecoming conduct, and refusal to obey a lawful order.

The House:
Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have the right to make their own rules governing their procedure, and to change those rules. Under current rules, the actual impeachment inquiry begins in the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives. That Judiciary Committee will hold the hearings, accept evidence, and hear testimony of witnesses concerning matters relevant to the inquiry. Typically, there will also be a Minority Counsel who serves the interest of the party not controlling Congress.

If the Committee so decides, it would then formulate Articles of Impeachment for Committee vote, the results of which are reported to all the members of the House. If the Articles of Impeachment are approved by the members of the House, the matter will be sent to the Senate for trial.

The Senate:
At the Senate trial, attorneys are employed for the prosecution of the impeachment case with the Senate sitting as the jury. At conclusion of the trial, each individual Senator will cast his/her vote to convict the President and remove him from office, or vote against conviction. If more than two-thirds of the Senators present vote to convict, the President would be removed from office.

Interesting TidBits:

  1. Senators who abstain from voting but were present would in effect be voting against conviction.
  2. The impeachment process is purely political in nature and not criminal. Congress has no power to impose criminal penalties on impeached officials. Any crimes committed by an official would have to be tried in the criminal courts.
  3. In all the articles of impeachment that the House has drawn, no official has been charged with treason.
  4. Andrew Johnson – Articles of Impeachment were formulated by the House on three (3) charges, voted on by the House, and sent to the Senate for trial. At the end of the Senate trial for his impeachment, three charges were brought to a vote. The Senate was short one vote to impeach on each of the three charges and he was acquitted.
  5. Richard Nixon – Articles of Impeachment were formulated by the House on three (3) charges: obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of congress. Nixon resigned before the whole House was able to vote on the Articles of Impeachment.
  6. William Jefferson Clinton – Articles of Impeachment were formulated by the House on four (4) charges: perjury before a grand jury; providing perjurious, false and misleading testimony in a related civil case; obstruction of justice to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of related evidence; abuse of power by deceiving the American public, misleading his cabinet and other employees so that they would mislead the public, asserting executive privilege to hinder the investigation, refusing to respond to the Committee and misleading the Committee. Fifty (50) of the required sixty-seven (67) senators voted to remove Clinton on the obstruction of justice related charges and forty-five (45) of the sixty-seven (67) voted to remove him on the perjury related charges.

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Disclaimer:
This document/post/article is not to be considered as legal advice. Content and information contained herein is subject to changes, modifications, and may contain inaccuracies or out-of-date information. As with any legal matter or other matters of importance, consultation with an attorney or professional is the best course of action.

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