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Since the first impeachment of a federal official in 1797, there have been a total of 21 impeachments. In eight cases, it led to removal; in another three, the official resigned. The most recent is the second impeachment of President Donald Trump. He is yet to be tried by the Senate.
Impeachment means charging a public official with misconduct. Like in the justice system, charges alone do not lead to consequences. Instead, there is a trial, during which the official is convicted or acquitted.
The Constitution outlines the federal impeachment process across several sections, though Article II, Section 4 describes its purpose and use: "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 "sole Power of Impeachment" rests with the House, as stated in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution. The Senate then conducts a trial and has the power to convict or acquit, according to Article I, Section 3. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court oversees the proceedings, and conviction occurs only if two-thirds of present senators concur with the charges. If someone is convicted, they are removed from office and barred from holding any government office. There are no criminal consequences, though the person may still be "liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law."
Article II, Section 2 states that the president has the power to pardon "except in Cases of Impeachment."
While the Constitution explicitly names the president and vice president, it also states that all federal civil officers are impeachable. Historically, that has led to the impeachments of multiple federal judges and one cabinet-level appointee.
Members of Congress are not subject to removal by impeachment. In 1797, Senator William Blount became the first person impeached by Congress; two years later, the Senate concluded that he was not a civil officer and dismissed the charges. By then, Blount had already been expelled from the Senate under Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution, which grants the House and Senate separate processes by which a two-thirds majority can remove a member.
Congress has impeached 15 judges, three presidents, one secretary of war, and, as mentioned, Senator Blount, whose charges were dismissed. President Trump is the only person to have been impeached twice.
In 11 out of the 21 impeachments, the official left office either through resignation or conviction, but none of them were presidents. Presidents Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump — in his first impeachment — were all acquitted. President Richard Nixon resigned before the House concluded its impeachment proceedings and so is not counted.
Of the judges, 13 were from district courts, one was from the US Commerce Court, and one was an associate justice of the Supreme Court. The charges range from intoxication on the bench to waging war against the US government — for which West Hughes Humphreys, a district judge from Tennessee, lost his office after supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Eight of the 21 cases took place in the past 35 years, indicating that impeachment continues to be an active tool of US government.
|Name||Position||Impeachment date||Charges||Result in the Senate|
|William Blount||US Senator from Tennessee||July 7, 1797||Conspiring to attack Spain-held Florida and Louisiana to hand over to the British.||
Dismissed: He was already an expelled senator and the Senate did not
consider him an impeachable officer.
|John Pickering||Judge, US district court, District of New Hampshire||March 2, 1803||Misconduct and intoxication while on the bench||Guilty and disqualified from future office|
|Samuel Chase||Associate Justice, US Supreme Court||March 12, 1804||Behaving "in an arbitrary, oppressive, and unjust way by announcing his legal interpretation on the law of treason before defense counsel had been heard"||Acquitted|
|James H. Peck||Judge, US district court, Western district of Tennessee||April 24, 1830||Abuse of the contempt power||Acquitted|
|West H. Humphreys||Judge, US district court, Western district of Tennessee||May 6, 1862||Accepting office under the Confederacy and disloyalty||Guilty and disqualified from future office|
|Andrew Johnson||President||February 24, 1868||
Violating the Tenure of Office Act by removing Secretary of War Edwin
Stanton from office
|Mark H. Delahay||Judge, US district court, Kansas||February 28, 1873||Intoxication on the bench||Resigned|
|William W. Belknap||Secretary of War||March 2, 1876||
Accepting payments in exchange for
making official appointments
|Charles Swayne||Judge, US district court, Northern district of Florida||December 13, 1904||Abuse of contempt power and other misuses of office||Acquitted|
|Robert W. Archbald||Associate judge, US Commerce Court||July 11, 1912||Misconduct and improper appointment of a juror||Guilty and disqualified from future office|
|George W. English||Judge, US district court, Eastern district of Illinois||April 1, 1926||Abuse of power||Resigned|
|Harold Louderback||Judge, US district court, Northern district of California||February 24, 1933||Misconduct in administering bankruptcy cases||Acquitted|
|Halsted L. Ritter||Judge, US district court, Southern district of Florida||March 2, 1936||Bringing the judiciary into disrepute, tax evasion, practicing law while a judge and showing favoritism in bankruptcy cases||Guilty and disqualified from future office|
|Harry E. Claiborne||Judge, US district court of Nevada||July 22, 1986||
Income tax evasion and remaining on the bench following criminal
|Guilty and disqualified from future office|
|Alcee L. Hastings||Judge, US district court, Southern district of Florida||August 3, 1988||Perjury and conspiring to solicit a bribe||Guilty and disqualified from future office|
|Walter L. Nixon||Judge, US district court, Southern district of Mississippi||May 10, 1989||Perjury before a federal grand jury||Guilty and disqualified from future office|
|William J. Clinton||President||December 19, 1998||Lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstruction of justice||Acquitted|
|Samuel B. Kent||Judge, US district court for the Southern district of Texas||June 19, 2009||
Sexual assault, obstructing and impeding an official proceeding, and
making false and misleading statements
|G. Thomas Porteous, Jr.||Judge, US district court, Eastern district of Louisiana||March 11, 2010||Accepting bribes and making false statements under penalty of perjury||Guilty and disqualified from future office|
|Donald J. Trump||President||December 18, 2019||Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress||Acquitted|
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