Dear Mz. Polly: Could the President be impeached for abuse of power or obstruction or conflict of interest or something? Not sure whether to hope or worry. Can’t Decide in West Virginia
Dear Can’t Decide:
Oh those clever framers! They wanted to protect against the abuse of power in every possible way. So the Constitution (Article II) outlines the process for the President, among others, to be “removed from office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
In other words, impeachment IS possible. But don’t hold your breath. No President has ever been successfully impeached.
It takes both Houses of Congress to impeach a President. The House Judiciary Committee must bring the charges of misconduct. If the majority of House members vote for impeachment, the procedure moves to the Senate where the equivalent of a trial is held. Here, 67 of the 100 Senators have to vote for impeachment for it to stick.
THE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS
Presidential impeachment has only been tried twice and in both cases, it failed. The first time was against Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s VP who became President after the assassination. Johnson was charged with violating a law Congress passed to prevent him from firing cabinet members. The Senate vote was 66 in favor of impeachment, one shy of passing.
Fast forward 100+ years to 1974. It’s becoming obvious that President Nixon has broken the law by inspiring and covering up the Watergate break-in. But rather than becoming the first impeached President, he resigns before the House can vote.
In 1998/99, the House impeached President Clinton for lying about a sexual relationship. Lawyers argued that these actions did not meet the standard of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” That argument prevailed in the Senate where the impeachment vote fell far short of the 2/3rds needed.
So yes, President Trump, like any President, could be impeached, if there were charges of unacceptable or improper behavior. But it would require action from both Houses of Congress. And even if the House charged him, it’s highly unlikely the Senate would convict him.
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