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The History of Impeachment in the United States

U.S. Capitol building dome

When people talk about impeachment they often do so in a politically charged way. In this post we are presenting non-partisan information about the history of U.S. impeachment for your consideration. Impeachment is often mentioned in the news, on social media, and in conversation. We have collected some basic resources to enable you to be ready with factual information for your next discussion where this legislative action is discussed.

According to the U.S. Senate website, "If a federal official commits a crime or otherwise acts improperly, the House of Representatives may impeach—formally charge—that official. If the official subsequently is convicted in a Senate impeachment trial, he is removed from office.” The Constitution in Article I, section 2, clause 5 states, “The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.” It continues in Article I, section 3, clauses 6 & 7:

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

To read a detailed account of the history of American impeachment, experience, see this 1998 Congressional Research Service report.

While we have several resources in our collection, the Law Library of Congress’ Impeachment guide provides a thorough bibliographic resource for finding sources on impeachment. Also, this CNN website has some little known impeachment facts with links to legislative documents. (Did you know that 2 separate measures were introduced to impeach President Ronald Reagan?)

Finally, we have put together a small collection of resources on the history of impeachment in the United States which can be found in the library. An online guide to this small collection can be found on our library’s website.

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