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LWV is committed to orderly government processes and promoting citizen confidence in public officials and the institutions that they are responsible for. Recent developments on the national scene have undermined that confidence and disrupted those procedures to the point where the House of Representatives, specifically the House Judiciary Committee, has begun an inquiry as to whether there are grounds for recommending that impeachment proceedings be instituted to remove the President from office.

That inquiry has just gotten underway and it is essential that it be carried out in a manner that will help restore citizens' confidence in the ability of their elected officials responsibly and equitably. The impeachment process is established by the constitution and on November 15, the House voted an appropriation of one million dollars to the House Judiciary Committee for expanded staff and services in order to investigate whether or not impeachable offences have been committed.

The League Position

The League considers the impeachment process a legitimate constitutional means whereby the representatives of the people (Congress) can determine whether or not there are grounds for removal from office of a member of the executive or the Judiciary. The League does NOT prejudge whether an individual is guilty or innocent nor has it a position on what causes impeachment may be based upon.

We believe, however, that whatever the outcome, the American public must be convinced that a fair and thorough inquiry has been made. To assure that end, the Chairman of House Judiciary should guarantee to the minority that at least 1/3 of the appropriated funds will be available for minority staffing, and that the minority will be represented in all planning for staff, strategy and timing. In addition, a Special Counsel with the highest qualifications should be appointed quickly and hearings begun as expeditiously as possible. In line with its U.S. Congress position, the LWV believes that the Committee hearings must be open so that the public can follow all major developments and lines of inquiry. This openness should also cover acquisition and publication of documents pertaining to specific charges that can be released within the limits of national security and protection of individual rights as determined by the Supreme Court.

To answer questions for League members, end provide a basic community information tool, this fact sheet provides:

  1. The provisions set forth in the Constitution with regard to removal from office upon impeachment and conviction;

  2. A discussion of terms pertinent to discussion and action;

  3. A brief description of the distinctly separate processed for which the house and Senate are responsible;

  4. A brief review of official house action to date;

  5. brief list of resource material.

What the Constitution Says

"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. (Article II, section 4).

The House of Representatives...shall have the sole Power of Impeachment. (Article I, section 2)

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. then sitting for the Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. .hen the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall pre- side: and no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law, (Article I, section 3)

In summary:

...The House alone has the power to bring charges of impeachable offenses; that is, to impeach,

...The Senate alone has the power to bring accused individual to trial and determine innocence or guilt; that is, possibly to convict and re- move from office.

...The only penalty the Senate can impose is removal from office and disqualification from holding any future public office.

Discussion of Terms

  1. Impeachable offenses: The Constitution lists these as "treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors." Not all of these terms have been defined precisely by law or legal precedent, and one purpose of the inquiry is to define "impeachable offenses,"

  2. Inquiry: an official investigation by a House committee to deter- mine Whether or not there is justification for a formal accusation. An "inquiry" does not constitute impeachment.

  3. Articles of Impeachment: an official statement of one or more charges (or accusations) that are deemed to be offenses which could constitute justification for removal of certain public officials from office. The "articles" may be submitted by individual House members in resolutions or may be drawn up by a committee charged with investigating claims or evidence of "impeachable" charges.

  4. Impeachment: one step in the process of removal of a public official--the formal accusation by. majority vote in the House that one or more "impeachable offenses" has been committed. Such a vote of accusation (i.e. impeachment) by the House does not result in removal from office; it is comparable to indictment by a grand jury and leads to trial to determine innocence or guilt with regard to the charges or accusations,

  5. House Managers: one or more members selected by the House to prosecute the impeachment. (accusation) in the Senate.

  6. Impeachment Trial: the Senate procedure for determining innocence or guilt of charges brought by the House. The procedure may be compared to trial by jury, but is more flexible than civil or criminal court proceedings. In effect, the Senate serves as the courtroom, the House managers as Prosecutors, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court as judge, and the Senators as jury.

  7. Conviction: a two-thirds vote by the Senators present agreeing that the individual accused is guilty on at least one article of impeachment. It is only after such a Senate vote that a President or other public official can be removed from office. A failure to attain the two -thirds vote in the Senate has the effect of retaining the accused individual in office, but still liable to indictment and conviction for criminal and indictable offenses in judicial branch procedures.

The Process of Removal From Office

...The process of impeachment in the house may begin in a variety of ways: by charges made on the floor by a member; by resolution or memorial; by charges transmitted from the President, a state legislature, a grand jury; or in response to facts derived and reported by an investigating committee of the house. Indeed, 'common fame' such as facts contained in newspaper reports, has at times led the House to order an investigation with a view toward impeachment. As Thomas Jefferson, drawing on a 1625 Resolution of Parliament, said: 'Common fame is a good ground for the House to proceed by inquiry, and even to accusation.'

... If the investigating Committee .recommends impeachment, it sends to the House a resolution and articles of impeachment which specify the grounds of accusation. These are then debated and voted upon, a majority vote of those present being required to .bring the President to trial. The house then selects 'managers' to prosecute the impeachment in the Senate trial. In the past, House managers have been chosen by the Speaker or by majority vote. of House members. The House managers then transmit the articles of. impeachment to the Senate. The Senate, in turn; informs the House when it is ready to proceed with the trial.

The Senate trial is governed by the Senate Rules of Procedure...Then the President is on trial, the Chief Justice presides. The trial begins' with the Justice administering an oath to the Senate members. Each must swear or affirm that he or she will 'do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws'. The accused is then summoned to appear and answer charges. The accused may appear personally or by counsel. A failure to appear personally or by counsel is treated as the equivalent of a plea of "not guilty".

The proceedings are somewhat similar to, but far more flexible than, those applicable in either a civil or criminal trial, Both sides may Present witnesses and evidence and the accused has the right to cross-examine witnesses. Procedural questions which arise during the trial, such as questions of evidence. are ruled upon by the Chief Justice, However, at the request of a single member, he may be overruled by a majority vote of the Senators present.

The Constitution specifically pro. vides that conviction requires a two thirds vote of the Senators present, The Senate rules require a separate vote on each article (charge), A two-thirds vote on a single article is sufficient for conviction.

The Constitution limits the penalties to removal from office and disqualification from future office,

Resolutions Before the House Judiciary Committee

The Committee has before it 107 resolutions of two basic types:

...one kind sets for the specific charges (Articles of Impeachment) which it requests the Committee to submit to the House for a vote, There are 31 resolutions of this kind, which set forth either three, seven, or eight charges of criminal. illegal, or political acts the sponsors deem to be impeachable offenses;

...the other type of resolution (with 76 sponsors and co-sponsors, calls for official Committee investigations of the President "to determine whether high crimes have been committed and to report any articles of impeachment or other recommendations it deems proper_"

The Committee also his before it one resolution asking that Congress censure and condemn the President for his "announced defiance of the judicial branch..."

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