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The Presidential Impeachment Process



Abstract

This paper looks at the presidential impeachment process. The paper looks at the impeachment of Presidents Johnson and Clinton. It further touches on President Nixon's resignation in lieu of an impeachment due to the Watergate scandal.

Keywords: President, impeach, Constitution

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Introduction

According to the article 11, section 4 of the Constitution of the United States of America, the President, Vice President, and all the civil officers shall be impeached and on conviction be removed from office for treason, bribery, misdemeanors, and other high crimes (Cohen, 2000).

Treason against the President of the United States consists of levying war against the citizens, cooperating with the enemies of the United States, and helping or giving them any form of aid and comfort. The aforementioned aid can be construed to mean financial aid, while comfort can be taken to mean accommodating them or not subjecting them to the harsh punishment in accordance with the laws of the United States of America. The President cannot be convicted of this crime until there are at least two witnesses of the crime, or whenever it is ascertained that the President has accepted to have committed the aforementioned crime in a court of law (Cohen, 2000).

Bribery occurs whenever an individual gives money or gifts to an officer in order to influence the behavior of that officer to their benefit. This can be done in order to change the course programs in favor of the person accused of giving a bribe. Misdemeanors as one of the grounds to impeaching the President vary. It includes misappropriating funds from the government, arbitrary appointment of non-qualified subordinates, failing to prosecute cases, failing to spend money allocated by treasury, and arresting an individual in order to prevent them from vying for an elective post (Cohen, 2000).

In impeaching the President, the Congress is the custodian of the full powers of impeaching and removing the President from office. The House of Representatives has the actual powers of impeaching the President. Once the president has been impeached, the actual removal of the President from office is done by the Senate (Holtzman & Cooper, 2006).

The Start of the Impeachment Process

The impeachment process is initiated by the House of Representatives. The charges are publicly carried out and hearings are held for that matter. In the event that the House of Representatives votes against the process, the President will not be impeached and such charges will be dropped. In the event that the impeachment process is approved by the House of Representatives, the process moves to the next step where it involves extensive drawing articles of impeachment. The articles are the actual criminal charges of removing the President from the public office. The President is then said to have been impeached officially according to the Constitution of the United States of America (Holtzman & Cooper, 2006).

It is the role of the House of Representatives, besides its investigatory responsibilities and oversight role, to bring on the impeachment charges against the President in the case that there are reasons that warrant the aforementioned process. Impeachment resolutions can be introduced by the individual members of the house. Such members pass resolutions that authorize investigations into the alleged actions of the President. Consequently, the committee on judiciary or any other committee set to investigate determines whether it is worth to conduct investigations on the charges against the President and thereby formulate report that depict the facts of the case and other related results to the full house. In the event that the articles, which indicate the impeachment charges, are adopted by the house by a simple majority vote, the house will then pass a resolution appointing the members to represent it in the senate trials on its behalf. The members chosen act as prosecutors in the Senate and are mostly drawn from the judiciary committee. The members chosen must be an odd number so as to make it easier in the course of making a decision, especially where it is required that they conduct a mandatory vote. However, it is important to note that the members, which have been chosen, are normally supportive of the house’s decision (Holtzman & Cooper, 2006).

Holding Of the Trials

Once the impeachment process is over, the US Senate holds trials so as to either convict or acquit the President of the allegations in the articles of impeachment drawn against the President (Holtzman & Cooper, 2006).

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton

The first President in the history of America to be impeached was President Andrew Johnson. Andrew Johnson was the President of the United States who took over leadership after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Andrew Johnson was impeached as a result of his failure to duly follow the set procedures as specified within the federal legislation that did not allow the cabinet officials to be fired without the Congress’s input and approval. The Tenure of Office legislation was argued to be unconstitutional given its compromise on the power of the executives. Nevertheless, the republicans who were quite radical and in control of the Congress, recoiled at the active hostility of President Andrew Johnson towards their plans of protecting all the newly freed slaves as a way of keeping the sympathetic cabinet members of Abraham Lincoln in office.

Impeachment was voted by the House when the President fired Edwin Stanton, who was the secretary of war. The consent of the Senate was required, according to the federalist number 77, to fire or hire officials. The conviction of President Andrew Johnson failed in the Senate by a simple one vote (Holtzman & Cooper, 2006). He also was responsible for violating state rights whenever he partook to deal with South Carolina in the course of the nullifications crisis. Subsequently, President Andrew Johnson went ahead to violate the separation of powers given that he undertook the decision to disembark the Bank of the United States of America. Notwithstanding, it was his violation of the US laws, treaties, and consequent court orders in his immediate relations with native Americans that contributed immensely to his impeachment by the House of the Representatives (Holtzman & Cooper, 2006).

Over a century later, history repeated itself; the Congress formed an impeachment inquiry on President Clinton. The impeachment was as a result of the public apology made by President Bill Clinton from the Rose garden of the White House on December 11, 1998. President Clinton got impeached on December 19th 1998. The articles of impeachment were drawn against the President. His criminal charges continued in the Senate. Both Presidents Johnson and Clinton were acquitted of the charges and therefore, they were not removed from office for that matter (Vile, 2010).

The administration of Clinton was marred with several scandals most of which led to the appointment of special prosecutors but fewer amount of officials were convicted. One of the prosecutors had recommended to the Congress that the President had immensely lied before the grand jury, tampered with witnesses. In the process, Clinton had obstructed justice over sexual harassment claims that had been instituted against him. The President denied all the charges and in his ruling, the judge cited and fined Clinton for contempt on the basis of untruthful testimony (Holtzman & Cooper, 2006).

Given that the House was majorly controlled by the republicans, Clinton was voted to be impeached based on the ruling by the judge. The House managers suggested that the actions of the President were inconsistent with the duties that he was sworn to perform in ensuring that the laws of the nation were executed faithfully.

The First Presidential Resignation – Richard Nixon

The House of Representatives had progressed with talks regarding the impeachment of President Richard Nixon in 1974. Three articles of impeachment had been prepared in connection with Watergate scandal. The House of Representatives had decided to vote on the impeachment. In his charges, the President had been accused of obstructing justice, violation of the oath of office, and misuse of power. The President had also been accused of failing to comply with the House of subenas (Vile, 2010).

President Nixon, on August 9, resigned from being the President. This was a few days before the impeachment vote got cast on the floor of the House. Had President Nixon failed to resign, he would have been impeached successfully, especially because of the criminal charges leveled against him in the Senate. President Nixon is the only one in the President’s history of the United States to have resigned from office. His successor, Gerald R. Ford pardoned him, exonerating him of any criminal charges (Holtzman & Cooper, 2006).

The most serious charge against President Nixon was the wrong use of the CIA and the FBI with the aim of concealing evidence that the people connected to the White House participated in a burglary at the offices of the Democratic Party. The break in had occurred in the morning hours of June 17, 1972. Five burglars broke into the offices of the Democratic national committee inside the Watergate office complex in Washington. The burglars were discovered and reported by the night watchman (Holtzman & Cooper, 2006).

It was later on discovered that the burglars had been employed by a committee with an aim of re-electing President Nixon. However, these allegations were dismissed by the White House spokesman as mere third rate burglary attempt (Holtzman & Cooper, 2006).

The activities leading to his impeaching had started in 1970 when papers from Pentagon were stolen and later on got published with details of the U.S. department of defense’s secret history regarding the war in Vietnam. Nixon’s aides formed a unit in the White House to try and unravel who had leaked the secret information and other perceived enemies. This was conducted in order to prevent any form of further leakage of information. A team of burglars broke into the office of the psychiatrist with an aim of confiscating damaging information on the former defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who had leaked paper belonging to pentagon to the press (Holtzman & Cooper, 2006).

In 1972, as part of the comprehensive plans to re-elect President Nixon into power, a massive campaign was done comprising of dirty political tricks and spying against the democrats. This caused the Watergate burglary with an aim of planting bugs that would record and transmit all the discussions that would take place from the office of the democratic national committee (Holtzman & Cooper, 2006).

Investigations into the facts surrounding the events lead to the discovery of the fact that one of the burglars was a former employee of the CIA who had been appointed as the campaign coordinator of President Nixon. The Attorney General had taken control of the fund whose purpose was to finance all the political spying and dirty tricks against the democratic presidential candidate. The most dirty tricks leveled against President Nixon was a newspaper report that he had referred to Americans of Canadian and French descent as Canucks (Holtzman & Cooper, 2006).

Conclusion

To sum up, it has been noted that according to the United States Constitution, a President, Vice President, and all the civil officers shall be impeached and on conviction be removed from office for treason, bribery, misdemeanors, and other high crimes. It has also been noted that Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton underwent an impeachment process. While it has been noted that Clinton and Johnson were not removed from office, the counterpart President Nixon underwent the impeachment process successfully.

The impeachment process of the President of the United States can be triggered by such factors as corruption, exercising unconstitutional powers, and such matters as protecting the enemies of the United States for that matter. In consequence, such activities as spying on the activities of the Presidents are deemed unlawful and can thus attract impeachment processes by the House of the Representatives.

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