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Impeachment: Definition, Process & Requirements

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  • 0:00 Definition: Impeachment
  • 0:22 Impeachment Process
  • 1:28 History of Impeachment…
  • 2:59 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Nowaczyk

Jason has a masters of education in educational psychology and a BA in history and a BA in philosophy. He's taught high school and middle school

The following lesson will cover impeachment, or the process by which the president, vice president or other civil officer can be removed from office. A short quiz will follow the lesson to check your understanding.

Definition: Impeachment

Impeachment is an action by the House of Representatives that accuses the president, vice president or other civil officer of the United States of committing, 'Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.' In other words, it is the formal bringing of charges or accusations against one of the government officials listed above.

Impeachment Process

Oftentimes, when we hire someone to do a job like cleaning, handiwork or landscaping, we sign a contract with him or her. In that contract, we agree to pay for that person's services and in return, he or she agrees to do the work to the best of our satisfaction. If for some reason the person we hired is not performing the work to our satisfaction, we can end the contract or fire the person. Something similar to this happens in our federal government when the president doesn't perform his job to the satisfaction of the American people and Congress. The contract that the president is bound to is the U.S. Constitution. When the president doesn't perform his job as expected in the Constitution, he can be removed by the process of impeachment.

The process of impeachment only involves the formal bringing of charges against a person, usually the president, by the House of Representatives. The official's actual removal from office is a separate process that takes place by a formal trial that is handled by the Senate. So, if the House votes to impeach a government officer, it will draw up articles of impeachment and submit them to the members of the Senate, who then conduct the actual trial.

History of Impeachment in the U.S.

Over the history of the United States, two presidents have been impeached, and one more resigned before the impeachment process could culminate. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. In both of these cases, even though articles of impeachment were drawn up, neither president was convicted or removed from office. In 1974, articles of impeachment were drawn up against Richard Nixon by the House Judiciary Committee, but Nixon resigned from the office of the presidency before full impeachment hearings could begin.

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