Impeachment process in the United States: High hurdles for removal of Trump

So far, no US president has been removed from office by impeachment and only three presidents have faced real impeachment proceedings. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (DPA) - The US House of Representatives on Thursday (Oct 31) passed a resolution to define the parameters of the next phase of their impeachment inquiry.

The resolution is designed to outline how the impeachment inquiry will move forward, starting a new phase that would include the likelihood of public hearings broadcast on television.

The vote was not a vote to prepare articles of impeachment, which is what the Constitution requires to start an impeachment process.

Articles of impeachment are essentially an indictment against a president.

An impeachment is a process by which lawmakers can censure and ultimately remove a US president from office. The process begins in the House of Representatives, and the hurdles are very high.

The US Constitution sets specific grounds for impeachment, saying "treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanours" are impeachable offences.

To impeach and remove a president from office, both chambers of the US Congress - the House of Representatives and the Senate - must find that the president committed one of these acts.

House committees investigate through hearings and other means and, if necessary, prepare articles of impeachment. If a majority of the House committees votes to approve the articles, the whole House debates and votes on them.

If a majority of House lawmakers votes for impeachment on any article, the president must then stand trial in the Senate.

For a president to be removed from office, two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict.

Republicans currently control the Senate and they have rallied behind President Donald Trump. Nearly half of the Republicans in the Senate and all the Democrats and independents would have to support impeachment in order for Mr Trump to be convicted.

Upon conviction, a president is automatically removed from office and, if the Senate so decides, may be forbidden from holding government office again.

So far, no US president has been removed from office by impeachment and only three presidents have faced real impeachment proceedings.

The first was Mr Andrew Johnson in 1868, who was acquitted by a narrow vote in the Senate.

Mr Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 but managed to stay in office. He was impeached by the House but the Senate cleared him the following year of charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Mr Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 to avoid being impeached.

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