US President Donald Trump is set to be the subject of a formal impeachment inquiry — the start of a process that could see him removed from office. DW explains how it all works.
What is it?
Impeachment is a constitutional process whereby Congress brings charges against civil officials of the government who committed alleged crimes.
The founders of the United States gave Congress powers remove from office “the president, vice president, and all civil officers of the United States” if the accused is convicted of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Simply put, to impeach means to bring charges similar to an indictment in court.
How does it work?
The House has the “sole power of impeachment.” The House Judiciary Committee is usually responsible for impeachment proceedings. The House debates and votes on whether to bring charges by a simple majority of the House’s 435 members. In this role, the House serves as a grand jury bringing charges against an officer.
The Senate has the “sole power to try all impeachments,” meaning that it has the power to convict. When the president is tried, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over proceedings.
Has impeachment ever happened before?
Only two presidents in US history have been impeached: Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. However, neither was removed from office by the Senate. Richard Nixon resigned to avoid a House impeachment vote.
The House has initiated impeachment proceedings more than 60 times. However, only a third of cases resulted in full impeachment. Just 8 officials — all federal judges have been convicted and removed from office.
How would a president be removed from office?
For the president to be removed from office, a two-thirds majority in the 100-seat Senate must vote to convict. If they do, the president must step down. In the case of Donald Trump, his Republican party currently controls the Senate, making it highly unlikely he will be forced out.