What does impeachment mean and which US Presidents have been impeached?

IMPEACHMENT means a US President can be removed by Congress before an election due to serious wrongdoing.

But how does it work and how many times has it been done before?

What does impeachment mean and how does the process work?

In the US, impeachment is a formal charge of serious wrongdoing against the holder of public office.

It is one of the few ways a sitting President can be kicked out of the White House before an election.

The US Constitution states a President "shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours".

The "sole power of impeachment" is held by the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress.

A simple majority is required – i.e. more than half of Congressmen must vote to impeach the President.

Then the case would be tried by the Senate, the upper chamber of Congress, where a two-thirds majority is needed.

Has Donald Trump been impeached?

Trump is the third US President to be impeached by the House.

He could face impeachment charges over riots at the US Capitol.

Hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden's win in November's election.

The president has repeatedly made unfounded claims of voter fraud and brought numerous legal cases to try to contest the result of the election.

Senior figures from both parties have called for the president to be removed from office over his role in inciting the unrest – a move that would stop him running for a second term in 2024.

Which other Presidents have been impeached?

Two other presidents in US history have been impeached, despite numerous threats on others.

Bill Clinton

The most recent was Bill Clinton, who was impeached in the House on charges of perjury and obstructing justice on December 19, 1998.

He was the second President to be impeached.

It related to his denials of an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

He infamously denied having "had sexual relations" with her to the public and federal investigators in January 1999.

However, when the trial reached the Senate in 1999, it failed to get close to the two-thirds backing it needed to remove him from office.

Many senators at the time agreed Clinton had behaved badly but ultimately decided his misconduct didn't amount to "high crimes in misdemeanours.

Clinton finished his second term before he was succeeded by Republican George W Bush.

Andrew Johnson

The first President to be impeached was Andrew Johnson, who served for four years from 1865.

He was impeached by the House in 1868, just 11 days after he got rid of his secretary of war Edwin Stanton.

The two-thirds majority needed in the Senate was missed by just one vote.

Was Richard Nixon impeached?

Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached over the Watergate Scandal.

The Watergate scandal refers to a break in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington DC and the subsequent chain of events.

Early in the morning of June 17, 1972, several burglars were arrested in the office of the Democratic National Committee, located in the Watergate complex of buildings in Washington, DC.

The group were caught wiretapping phones and stealing documents, and it was later revealed that they were all connected to President Nixon’s re-election campaign.

In August 1972, Nixon gave a speech in which he swore that White House staffers were not involved in the break-in, winning the public’s confidence and securing him another term in office.

Nixon released damning tapes that undeniably confirmed his complicity in the Watergate Scandal on August 5, 1974.

To avoid imminent impeachment by Congress, he chose to resign in disgrace on August 8, and left the White House the following day.

Six weeks later, Vice President Gerald Ford was sworn in as President and chose to pardon Nixon for any crimes he had committed while in office.

Nixon himself never admitted any wrongdoing and died in 1994.

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