How the Impeachment Process Works
Impeachment proceedings are guided by rules that are laid out in the U.S. Constitution.
ARTICLE I SECTION 2 CLAUSE 5 says that the House of Representatives may choose their Speaker and other Officers, and have the sole Power of Impeachment. Any member of the House of Representatives can initiate an impeachment inquiry. In this case involving President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared the formal impeachment inquiry.
Pelosi has directed numerous House subcommittees to continue to investigate allegations involving the president. They will eventually refer their findings to the House Judiciary Committee, which will then determine if they can create articles of impeachment against President Trump. Articles of impeachment lay out the accusations, similar to an indictment, which are defined as "treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors." There is no specific wordage of what these high crimes and misdemeanors are in the U.S. Constitution, and they don't necessarily have to be an actual crime.
Here are some examples of potentially impeachable offenses:
- Abuse of power
- Misuse of office for financial gain
- Acting in a manner incompatible with the office
Once the articles of impeachment are laid out, they are reported to a full House of Representatives. A simple majority of 218 votes is needed to move forward in impeachment proceedings, at which point the Senate will begin a trial.
ARTICLE I SECTION 3 CLAUSE 6 details the trial in the Senate, and states, "The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present."
Some House members are selected to be prosecutors in the Senate trial, with legal counsel representing the President. Witnesses will also be called to the stand to testify. The Senate then holds an open vote on an impeachment conviction.
A 2/3 vote is needed to move forward with impeachment. This majority is required to ensure serious deliberation and make sure there is a broad consensus.
The Senate can also take a separate vote to bar the President from federal office in the future. A simple majority is needed for this to pass.
For more on the formal impeachment inquiry process, listen to the podcast below.