Understanding What Impeachment Means

Impeachment is a constitutional tool meant to keep the powers at check. Understand the concept, the process, and the implications, using historical examples from around the world.

Definition of Impeachment

Impeachment, in simple terms, is a constitutional mechanism available within democratic governments that allows for the formal accusation against and investigation of a public official, typically someone holding a high office like president, a senator, or a judge. The process acts as a check and balance to safeguard against abuses of power.

The Process of Impeachment

The specific procedures can vary, often outlined in a country’s constitution. However, two stages are typically present: accusation and trial.

  • The lower house of the legislature usually conducts the accusation stage, culminating in a vote. If the lower house votes to impeach, the official is said to have been impeached.
  • The upper house carries out the second stage, essentially a trial. If they vote to convict, the official is removed from office. The senate does not impose criminal punishment, but an official removed that way can face criminal prosecution separately.

Impeachments in History

Historically, there have been many high-profile cases of impeachment worldwide. The United States’ history has seen a total of three presidential impeachments: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Donald Trump (twice) in 2019 and 2021. All were acquitted during their Senate trials, meaning that none were removed from office through this process.

The Impact of Impeachment

Even if those indicted aren’t removed from power, impeachment can have significant political repercussions. It might tarnish an official’s reputation, affect their ability to govern effectively, and impede their chances of re-election.


Impeachment is a significant proceedings in the democratic systems. Its effects extend past the immediate legal and political implications, impacting the public perception of an official’s credibility and integrity.

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