Impeachment is the first step in the Constitutional process for Congress to remove the president or other government officers. Although the Constitution sets a broad two-step process for impeachment and removal, there are many steps that have evolved from previous times impeachment and removal have been used on lower government officers, such as judges. No president has ever been removed from office. Below you’ll find a simplified timeline of how impeachment and removal works, and some links to research reports that provide more detailed information.
A Simple Timeline for Trump's Second Impeachment:
Impeachment in the House of Representatives
① The U.S. House of Representatives began debating impeachment on the morning of Wednesday, January 13th, 2021, just one week after a crowd of thousands of Trump supporters overwhelmed the U.S. Capitol Police and interrupted a session of Congress while the electoral college votes from the 2020 election were being tallied. While Republicans voiced opposition to the speed of the process and the lack of investigations, the Democrats replied that no investigations were necessary given that the attempted insurrection occurred on live television and was witnessed by the world.
② At 4:36pm, after approximately two hours of debate, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on H.Res.24, impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors. The vote was passed with bipartisan support, 232 to 197. To see if your Representative voted in support of the Article of Impeachment, click here.
Trial in the Senate
③ Transmittal of the Article of Impeachment to the Senate: On Monday, January 25, 2021, the House Impeachment Managers ceremoniously walked the Article of Impeachment from the U.S. House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate, where it was introduced and exhibited by Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin.
④ Announcement of Agreement: Shortly after the Article of Impeachment was introduced in the U.S. Senate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced an agreement to begin the trial on or around February 9th.
⑤ Senators Sworn In: On Tuesday, January 26th, 2021, the 100 members of the U.S. Senate swore an oath of impartiality, and a summons based on the Article of Impeachment was sent to Trump or his designees.
⑥ Trial: The trial, scheduled to commence on February 9th, is roughly analogous to a criminal court trial, with the House managers playing the role of the prosecution, the Senate as the jury, the President Pro Tem Pat Leahy as the judge, and the impeached official is the defendant. However, the Constitution is clear that it is not a criminal trial, since the standards for evidence and conviction are up to the Senate.
⑦ Deliberation: Similar to a jury, the Senate meets in closed session to deliberate the substance of the trial.
⑧ Vote on Conviction: Finally, the Senate votes the article of impeachment. These votes require a ⅔rd majority to convict, which results in removal from office. The Senate may also vote on whether the convicted official becomes disqualified from holding a government position again, for which only a simple majority is required.
Appealing a Conviction
⑨ Judicial Review Impeachment proceedings have been challenged in federal court on a number of occasions. In the unlikely event that the president is impeached and the Senate convicts him, there may be lawsuits to appeal the conviction. However, courts have said in the past that Congress’s power to impeach is broad and in many cases is not subject to judicial review.
These research reports provide additional information about the impeachment process:
Impeachment and Removal (Congressional Research Service; Oct. 29, 2015)
The Impeachment Process in the House of Representatives (Congressional Research Service; Aug. 12, 2019)
Congressional Resolutions on Presidential Impeachment: A Historical Overview (Congressional Research Service; Sept. 16, 1998)
Constitution Annotated: Art II., Sec. 4, Impeachment (Congressional Research Service)
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