History of impeachment-DO NOT PUBLISH, NEEDS VISUALS

With the fourth impeachment of a sitting president happening now, it’s important to know the history of impeachment and what it means. 

Historical Background: 

The process of impeachment starts in the House of Representatives, as they have the power to impeach an official. The Senate holds the trial of impeachment, the process of which is found in the Constitution of the United States. 

The idea of impeachment started in the United Kingdom in 1376 and was used as a way for Parliament to remove an official from power without consulting the king. 

Here in the United States, the Constitution states only elected officials like representatives, senators, governors and presidents can be impeached. This system is used as a way to remove people from office when they go above the law. 

“One of their important philosophical points of view on power was that power corrupts,” Kevin Adams, a history professor at Kent State, said. “So the system had to be built with checks and balances to maintain or restrain a man’s natural ability to be corrupt. Congress can read into a president who they believe has committed high crimes and mystical.”

There are three things a president can be charged with to warrant impeachment, including treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors, to keep it from being used as political warfare. 

High crimes and misdemeanors are not defined in the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Paper 65 defined impeachment as “the misconduct of public men, or in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

There have only been 60 charges of impeachment in the United States and only 19 federal officers have been fully impeached.  

The House of Representatives is where the proceeding happens with a judiciary committee. If the House approves the article of impeachment with a two-thirds majority vote, it heads to the Senate for trial. 

At the Senate, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial. A two-thirds majority is also needed in the Senate to impeach the president. When it comes to impeaching President Trump, it would take all the sitting Democrats, 20 Republicans and the two independent senators. 

If the article of impeachment passes, the Senate could vote to prevent the president from ever taking a position in a public office again.

However, only two presidents have been impeached: Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson. 

Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached in 1868. He was originally Abraham Lincoln’s vice president, but became president after Lincoln’s assassination. Johnson’s presidency started off promising even as a Democrat, but his views on the rights of freed slaves contradicted with the Republican party.  

“Johnson and Congress disagreed over how severe the reconstruction of the south should be,” Adams said. “Johnson’s point of view was that the south should be reintegrated as those states never left the union. And essentially the only product of the war is the end of slavery. He was quite willing to dismiss any prospect of African American civil rights.” 

Johnson tried to veto the 13th and 14th amendments and the Tenure of Office Act. 

He broke the previously-mentioned act when he removed his Security of War, Edwin M. Stanton, which started a conflict between Johnson and the Senate. The Senate didn’t approve, put Stanton back in his position and started discussing Johnson’s impeachment.

The other president to be impeached was Bill Clinton in 1998. 

Clinton was charged with high crimes and misdemeanors, for lying under oath and obstruction of justice, due to sexual harassment charges from his alleged affair with Monica Lewinsky. 

“There were serious allegations about some shady financial dealings from the time before (Clinton) was president,” Adams said. “(The) investigation ultimately turned out a variety of other unsavory behaviors on his part. Essentially, the Republicans in Congress pushed for impeachment on the grounds that his immoral conduct had disgraced the office.”

However, Clinton was acquitted and his popularity spiked after the trial. According to the Pew Research Center, “a strong State of the Union address combined with public anger at the news media fueled President Clinton’s unexpected lift to a 71 percent approval rating — even as allegations of a White House sex scandal consumed Washington.”

Although it confuses many people, Richard Nixon was not impeached. He resigned following the charges against him, including obstruction of justice, contempt of Congress and abuse of power. 

The talk of impeachment began after the break-in at the Watergate Complex pointed towards the Nixon Administration. Nixon was later pardoned by the next President, Gerald Ford.

“Some people felt the president essentially had beaten the rap right by resigning and didn’t face the full sanction for his conduct,” Adams said. “It was never tried in criminal court, though he’s referred to as the ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ in federal trial.”

President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is the United States’ fourth one. 

The case started with a whistleblower, who claimed Trump abused his power as president by working with the Ukrainian government to help him be reelected in the 2020 election.


Stemming from a phone call from President Trump to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. From this phone call only a rough transcript has been released by the White House. Sept. 26. 

The House subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, to receive documents over the supposed deal between the two governments. Sept. 30.

Text messages between the two government officials have been released, citing if Ukraine wanted military aid then they must look into Russian investigation and Hunter Biden and his father. The White House was Subpoenaed for documents. Oct. 4.

The White House returned with a statement on Oct. 8:

Some members of the democratic party are trying to undo the results of the 2016 elections and are using this process as a political strategy. 

October 10, two of Giuliani’s associates, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, were arrested and subpoenaed by the House, followed by Rick Perry being subpoenaed. 

October 31, the House formally votes to move onto the next phase of the impeachment process. 

The first public hearing began on Nov. 13, starting with State Department official George Kent and Ukraine Diplomat Bill Taylor. 


Kent State’s View  

The College Democrats, who hosted an event with Beto O’Rourke on Sept. 25, 2019, discuss the possibility of impeachment at their meetings. 

Tyler Gardner, a sophomore communication studies major and political director for the College Democrats, said impeachment has been in the back of the group’s mind. 

“This one feels different. I mean, there have obviously been people talking about impeachment for a long time,” Gardner said. “I get that, and there’s been a lot of reasons for why people are talking about that. But I think this was the first time where it was clear something had happened that was not normal. And there have been a lot of not normal things in this presidency, but this one was particularly bad.”

The Young Americans for Liberty, who are not allied with any political party, are more interested in explaining issues within our government system. They are not with the libertarian party, but do have some members who align with the party, according to Ben Riniger, a junior psychology major and president of the group.

“The vast majority of people … don’t see enough of a basis for it,” Riniger said. “In terms of our organization on campus, most people are against it, either in principle, or with me it’s just pragmatically. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Even though this is all going on in Washington D.C., the possibility of impeachment affects everyone as this will influence the next presidential election and our two main political parties. 

President Trump could be impeached, but not leave the office, as that requires another trial. If he is forced to leave the presidential office, Vice President Mike Pence will be sworn in. 

Comparing the last four impeachment trials is difficult, as all of them have had different paths to the hearings. 

Either way, this process is here to protect the system from corruption and should not be used as a political strategy. 

“In terms of the Constitution, there are a lot of areas of gray,” Adams said. “Over time, as a nation state evolves, those areas of gray are often resolved through past precedent or Congress picks up a bill and changes procedure to make it clear. But impeachment is so rare a lot of the stuff that is the shades of gray haven’t been worked out fully in our system.”

Contact Ryanne Locker at [email protected].