What Presidents Have Been Impeached? There Is A History Behind The Process
Voters upset at the outcome of this year's presidential election have been researching work-arounds. The obvious fix? Impeaching president-elect Donald Trump immediately upon his gaining office. If history's any indication, though, presidential impeachment isn't as easy a process as the aggressively anti-Trump camp might wish it to be. What presidents have been impeached in the past? Well, technically speaking, none have.
The impeachment of a president occurs in Congress. First, the House discerns whether or not the president is guilty of "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors," as per Article II of the Constitution. After this, the Senate holds an impeachment trial in which the president's fate is decided, necessitating a two-thirds majority to enact the impeachment.
No president has been convicted by the Senate thus far, but two have been found guilty by the House: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon, who was set to be tried for his Watergate Scandal, resigned before formal impeachment proceedings could take place.
Seeing as the election yielded a Republican-controlled Congress, the odds of Trump's impeachment seem rather low, save a domino-like downfall of the GOP. On the other hand, if Trump is found guilty of the crimes outlined in Article II, and Republican members of Congress decide that his vice president Mike Pence is a more desirable choice to lead the country, they could, in theory, band together against Trump in favor of handing the presidency over to Pence.
A president can be impeached before taking office, and a pre-inaugural impeachment of Trump would hinge on allegations of supposedly illegal goings-on at his infamous Trump University. "A federal judge appointed under Article III of the U.S. Constitution has already determined that Trump’s alleged actions, if true, constitute fraud and racketeering," notes Christopher Lewis Peterson, a University of Utah law professor who wrote the detailed article "Trump University and Presidential Impeachment" this past September.
Illustrating the possible downfall of the president-elect, POLITICO released a very hypothetical timeline last April as to how Trump might be impeached by his own party, post inauguration. Necessitating illegal activity on a national and international level; Drastically low approval ratings in the presidency; And contrasting, high approval ratings in Congress, Trump could lose his job.
Unprecedented in nature, impeaching a president who won 279 electoral votes (but not the popular vote) is a tall order. Though Clinton and Johnson were near impeachment, they ultimately survived the proceedings. Rising anti-Trump sentiment could spur a movement, but it's ultimately up to Congress to make the call.