Want to impeach the president? How likely is it?

Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill ClintonPresidents Andrew Johnson (left) and Bill Clinton (right)

The notion of impeaching President Donald Trump is entrenching itself as a talking point among some elected officials.

Such talk no doubt plays well among some voters. However, impeaching a president is a rare occurrence.

According to Article II, section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, “The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The U.S. House, which brings impeachment charges, has impeached just two presidents — Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. The U.S. Senate acquitted the two presidents, both Democrats, and they stayed in office for the remainder of their terms.

In addition to the two presidents, the House has impeached 15 federal judges, a U.S. senator and a cabinet official, according to the Office of the Historian for the U.S. House.

U.S. Sen. William W. Blount of North Carolina holds the distinction as the first official impeached. The House voted to impeach him in 1797 after an accusation he instigated a Native Americans insurrection to advance British interests in Florida.

Blount was acquitted, but the Senate expelled him from office. The case helped establish that House members and senators are not civil officers and are subject to removal a two-thirds vote by their respective chambers.

Nearly a century later, in 1876, Congress impeached Secretary of War William W. Belknap in the wake of the so-called trader post scandal during Reconstruction. Belknap resigned before the impeachment vote, though House members proceeded to cast ballots; the Senate later acquitted Belknap.

The House has initiated 60 impeachment proceedings over the years. However, the Senate has convicted and removed from office only eight people — all federal judges.

The House on Feb. 6, 1974, passed H.Res. 803 to give Judiciary Committee authority to investigate whether there were sufficient grounds to impeach President Richard Nixon. The committee in July 1974 approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon and reported those to the full House for consideration.

Nixon resigned before impeachment proceedings could begin.

About the author

Todd DeFeo

Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits The Travel Trolley and Railfanning.org.