Impeachment Facts
Impeachment Facts

22 Interesting Impeachment Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published March 21, 2020
  • The United States Congress has conducted three presidential impeachment trials: Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump. All three were acquitted and stayed in office.[6]
  • President Nixon (US) was not impeached. He resigned in 1974, before an impeachment vote was conducted in the House of Representatives.[6]
  • Impeachment History
    Impeachment is a part of constitutional law in  many countries around the world, including Brazil, France, India, Ireland, the Philippines, Russia, and South Korea
  • Since 1990, at least 132 different heads of state have faced some 272 impeachment proposals in 63 countries. Most leaders survive impeachment attempts.[3]
  • The word "impeachment" is from the Latin root pedica, meaning "a shackle, fetter," which is from pes, "foot." Impeachment literally means "to fetter, catch, entangle the feet."[2]
  • The US Supreme Court does not have the power to impeach a sitting president. The Supreme Court's only role is to oversee the trial.[5]
  • There is a difference between an impeachment inquiry and articles of impeachment. They are two different steps in the process. An inquiry is the investigation that precedes any vote in committee or on the floor of the House. Articles of Impeachment are the specific charges.[4]
  • The US Senate's role in an impeachment proceeding is to serve as a "court," where charges are reviewed and evaluated.[6]
  • In December 1998, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives voted to impeach President Bill Clinton for both perjury and obstruction of justice in the Monica Lewinsky affair. Following a five-week trial, the Senate voted to acquit him on both articles.[6]
  • In countries with presidents, about 94% of them have some mechanism for removing them from office.[3]
  • Article 1 of the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the "sole power of impeachment."[5]
  • Impeachment History
    The Constitution requires a two-thirds supermajority to convict a person being impeached

  • Even if a president is impeached, he or she is not immediately removed from office. Only the House of Representatives can impeach. Removal or conviction is left to the Senate. In other words, a president may be impeached and still remain in office.[6]
  • Andrew Johnson was the first American president to be impeached (March 2–3, 1868) for high crimes and misdemeanors, which were listed in 11 articles of impeachment.[5]
  • At the beginning of an impeachment trial, senators take an oath, which is why sometimes they are referred to as jurors. The word "oath" is Latin, iure, meaning "to swear."[3]
  • The genius of impeachment lay in the fact that it could punish the man without punishing the office.

    - Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

  • The United States Constitution has three rules for an impeachment trial: 1) senators swear an oath to do "impartial justice" according to the Constitution and laws; 2) the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides; and 3) two-thirds of the Senate must agree to convict. Everything beyond these general rules is left to the interpretation of the Senate.[5]
  • Andrew Johnson was almost removed from office. One vote in the Senate saved him from being convicted.[5]
  • Officials other than presidents can be impeached. Examples include 15 federal judges, a senator (William Blount in 1779), and a cabinet secretary (William Belknap in 1876).[5]
  • Even if a US president is impeached and removed from office, it doesn't mean the removal of the party in power. For example, if President Trump were removed from office, Mike Pence would become the president and the Republicans would still have the majority in the Senate.[5]
  • An impeachment isn't a criminal trial or a legal process. Instead, impeachment is a political process. The House of Representatives and the Senate define the terms "high crimes and misdemeanors."[5]
  • The US Constitution is not clear on whether a person who has been impeached would be barred from seeking reelection.[5]
  • Surprising Impeachment Facts
    Is there an elected official you find "obnoxious"?
  • According to Benjamin Franklin, impeachment was included in the US Constitution for the purpose of removing a president who had "rendered himself obnoxious."[1]
  • According to Benjamin Franklin, without impeachment, the only other recourse for removing a president would be assassination, which would leave the political official "not only devoid of his life but of the opportunity of vindicating his character."[1]
  • The American concept of impeachment has its origins in Ancient Rome. Only senators could be impeached, but not the emperor. This lead to a number of assassinations—a potentially bloody situation the Founding Fathers hoped to avoid.[1]

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