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If you’ve been talking about the news surrounding our president with your family or in your classroom, you may be confused about what exactly is happening in Washington, D.C. This week, The Mini Page explores what impeachment means.
A solemn oath
Did you watch President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017? At that big event, he and his vice president, Mike Pence, swore that they would follow the U.S. Constitution. The president’s oath reads:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
This oath means that the president has to do the best job he can while acting as president. He has to make sure that the government runs smoothly and the laws are obeyed.
The Constitution says that if a president, vice president or other officer of the United States does not obey the rules of his or her job, he or she can be removed from the job by the Congress. But senators and representatives are very careful with this responsibility.
How does it work?
First, the House of Representatives has to vote on one or more articles of impeachment. These are the particular charges of how the president has committed a crime against the United States.
If a majority of the House votes for impeachment, the process moves to the Senate. There, the chief justice of the Supreme Court serves as the judge, and the Senate serves as the jury. Some of the representatives from the House act as the lawyers for the United States, and the president has his own lawyer or team of lawyers.
After the hearings, the Senate votes. If there is greater than a two-thirds (at least 67) vote of guilty, the president is removed, and the vice president becomes president. If the president is removed, he may never serve in a government position again.
On Sept. 24, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry. This means that several House committees will look into the president’s actions and decide whether to draw up articles of impeachment and hold a vote.
The Congress is investigating whether the president worked with a foreign government to improve his chances in the 2020 presidential election.
Only two presidents have been impeached in U.S. history.
- President Andrew Johnson, the 17th president, was impeached in 1868 on 11 articles. However, only 35 senators voted “guilty” — one short of the 36 required votes. Johnson remained in office.
- In 1999, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House. But again, the Senate voted to acquit him, or declare him not guilty.
- In 1974, the House brought three articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. But before the House could begin its hearings, Nixon resigned, or quit, on Aug. 9, 1974. Vice President Gerald Ford became the 38th U.S. president.
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