The United States Constitution provides that the House of Representatives "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment" (Article I, section 2) and "the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments … [but] no person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present" (Article I, section 3). The president, vice president, and all civil officers of the United States are subject to impeachment.
The practice of impeachment originated in England and was later used by many of the American colonial and state governments. As adopted by the framers of the Constitution, this congressional power is a fundamental component of the system of “checks and balances.” Through the impeachment process, Congress charges and then tries an official of the federal government for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The definition of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” was not specified in the Constitution and has long been the subject of debate.
In impeachment proceedings, the House of Representatives charges an official of the federal government by approving, by simple majority vote, articles of impeachment. After the House of Representatives sends its articles of impeachment to the Senate, the Senate sits as a High Court of Impeachment to consider evidence, hear witnesses, and vote to acquit or convict the impeached official. A committee of representatives, called “managers,” act as prosecutors before the Senate. In the case of presidential impeachment trials, the chief justice of the United States presides. The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict, and the penalty for an impeached official upon conviction is removal from office. In some cases, the Senate has also disqualified such officials from holding public offices in the future. There is no appeal. Since 1789 about half of Senate impeachment trials have resulted in conviction and removal from office.
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