First off, in the case of a duly elected President of the United States, impeachment is not the removal of the Chief Executive of the national government from office. Impeachment is the approval of articles of impeachment by the House of Representatives by a simple majority of members and their referral to the United States Senate for trial. Think of the House action like a grand jury action which are then referred by a prosecutor with charges to the court. The House appoints their prosecution team to try and convince the jury, the United States Senate, that the charges warrant removal from the office of President of the United States. The judge officiating over the trial is the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. So, if we think this is just a political action as so many of the pundits say, we are dead wrong.
The first presidential impeachment approved and referred by the House to the Senate was on February 24, 1868. President Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, the former Vice President under Abraham Lincoln, who became President upon the assassination of Lincoln in 1865 was impeached. He had a rocky road with Congress due to his desire to quickly try and return the old states back to locally functioning status in the Union and was impeached over his removal of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, a violation of the Tenure in Office Act. The law was enacted to preclude the President for taking action against a senior employee in the Administration since Stanton was not appointed by Johnson. Johnson, a Southerner who retained allegiance to the Union during the Civil War, while Stanton was a Radical Republican who wanted retribution. The trial was held in the Senate and Johnson retained the presidency by a one vote margin. The Senate was one vote short of the required two-thirds majority vote to convict.
Most of us should remember, of course, the second impeachment involving President Bill Clinton in 1998 over a perjury impeachment article which was approved and referred to the Senate. In this case, Clinton was also acquitted yet he did later lose his law license since the entire impeachment process only involves Congressional action, not civil or criminal complaints which might otherwise be dealt with. He served out his term and retired with full benefits and privileges.
Now it appears that President Donald Trump is likely to face impeachment based upon the comments made yesterday in a press conference by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. And while this commentary won't address the issues at hand, that is something for all to decide for themselves, it is worthy of note that the procedures being employed have changed the standard way of doing business from the processes previously used. In the case of both President Johnson and President Clinton, the entire House voted on whether or not the action should warrant the initiation of a formal impeachment investigation preparatory to action. In the current case,the House of Representatives in the personage of the Speaker decided yesterday that the formal investigation preparatory to any further action will be handled by the six committee chairs of the House. The People's House has decided to leave the determination of the charges based upon a group of seven as opposed to allowing the entire House to take individual positions and debate the action before it even gets to the point of action. Why? There are a number of theories but let's just wait for the Speaker's next steps to find out. Decide for yourselves but realize that impeachment is a very serious matter and is one that is likely to tear the nation apart. It should never be taken lightly or initiated without good solid facts, not second and third person accounts. Is an ongoing battle with no needed legislative actions taken for the next year or longer what we want? Well, that's what happens during an impeachment trial. Think about it.