TFK Explains: The Impeachment Process

October 4, 2019
BIG ANNOUNCEMENT Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announces an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. "The president must be held accountable," Pelosi said in her remarks at the U.S. Capitol.
JIM LO SCALZO—EPA/BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

On September 24, the U.S. House of Representatives said it would start an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

What is an impeachment inquiry?

If a U.S. president is suspected of committing “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” the House of Representatives can impeach him or her. The Constitution gives them this power. In an impeachment inquiry, the House investigates whether there is enough evidence for a case. If there is, a case can go forward. If the president is found guilty, the Senate has the power to remove him or her from office.

Why has the House decided to launch an inquiry?

An anonymous complaint was filed in August. It says that Trump pushed the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son for wrongdoing. Biden is the former vice president. Now he is running for president. The Democrats might pick him as their nominee. If they do, Biden would compete against Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House. She announced the impeachment inquiry on September 24. She said that asking a foreign power to investigate an opponent shows Trump’s “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”

Trump says he has done nothing wrong. He says he will fight impeachment. “It’s all a big hoax,” he said on September 25.

How does impeachment work?

It starts with a House investigation. The House can then put forth a document. It is called the “articles of impeachment.” If members vote in favor of the articles, the president is impeached. That is the same as being charged with a crime.

What does the Senate do if the House votes to impeach?

The Senate holds a trial. In it, House members make a case against the president. The Senate acts as the jury. The trial is overseen by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Currently, the Senate is led by Republicans. They are likely to dismiss any case against Trump.

Has a U.S. president been impeached before?

Yes. Both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached. They were found not guilty at trial and they were not removed from office.

Stop and Think! Why does the press report on the activities of the U.S. government? Is it important to keep up with news about the president and Congress?