What Does It Mean When Someone is Impeached?

Delve into the understanding of impeachment – a constitutional process aimed at holding federal officials accountable. Explore its process, implications, and prominent cases in US history. Discover what it means for a public official when they’re impeached.

Understanding Impeachment

Impeachment is a constitutional process designed to remove a sitting president, vice president, or any other federal official who has committed ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ It allows the legislative body to charge an official with a crime, but it does not necessarily mean that the official will be removed from office. It is merely the first step in a two-step process.

The Process of Impeachment

The process begins in the House of Representatives, where any member can introduce an impeachment resolution, or the House as a whole can initiate proceedings. It requires a simple majority to pass the resolution and move forward to the Senate for trial.

The Senate then holds a ‘trial,’ presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court if the President is the official in question. A group of representatives known as ‘managers’ play the role of prosecutors, while the Senate acts as the jury. It takes a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate to convict and remove the official from office.

Notable Impeachment Cases

  • The impeachment of Andrew Johnson in 1868, who violated the Tenure of Office Act.
  • The case against Richard Nixon in 1974, who resigned before the House could vote on the impeachment resolution.
  • The impeachment trials of Bill Clinton in 1998 and Donald Trump in 2019 and 2021, who were both acquitted by the Senate.

Implications of Impeachment

An impeachment not only jeopardizes the official’s current position but could also bar them from any future federal office. It also affects their pension and other benefits depending on the crimes committed.


In summary, impeachment is a serious political measure designed to hold public officials accountable. It is a complex process that not only requires legal understanding but also a deep sense of judgment from both the Congress members and the public.

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