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Impeachment Essay

1942 words - 8 pages

Only three times in the 226 year history of the office of the President of the United States has the idea of impeachment reared its head. Only twice has a president been impeached, and only one president has been driven out of office due to possible high crimes and misdemeanors. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton both were impeached by the House of Representatives, and faced trial in the Senate. Both presidents were acquitted of their supposed transgressions, and were allowed to remain in office. Richard Nixon, despite never experiencing impeachment, vacated his office due to increasing pressure to resign and spare the Senate from going through the process due to his obvious guilt. Nixon was actually in violation of his duties as President, but Clinton and Johnson were impeached by political rivals. Nixon’s actions were considered in such grave violation of the Constitution, that he did not keep his office, whereas Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton stayed.
Impeachment is “ a criminal proceeding instituted against a public official by a legislative body.” (Impeachment). This does not mean automatic removal from office, which is a common misconception. the article goes on to explain how in the United States, the reason impeachment is so rare at the presidential level is because it is quite a long process and keep the Congress occupied for months; due to this impeachment in only employed in the gravest of circumstances. Furthermore, it is not just presidents or federal officials who can be impeached, as 49 states (all but Oregon) have an impeachment procedure in place. Impeachment is considered to be an important part of the checks and balances that make the US government unique, however due to the complicated and time consuming process it is.
The first ever use of the impeachment power occurred in 1868, when Andrew Johnson was impeached. Johnson was already unpopular with Congress, as over half of his vetoes were overridden. An example of one of these overrides was the Tenure of Office Act. Johnson did not work well with Edward Stanton, a member of Lincoln’s cabinet. The Tenure of Office Act stated the President must have Senate approval to remove a Cabinet member previously approved by the Senate. Johnson had already tried to remove Stanton from his post once, however the second attempt was after the passing of the Tenure of Office Act. Johnson’s removal of Stanton gave the Congress what they needed to start the impeachment process (Benson, Brannen, and Valentine 837). Also according to Benson et al, due to Johnson’s excessive use of the veto power, his political enemies in Congress were united against him. In fact, Johnson was the first president to have his veto overridden. It is clear that Congress moved to impeach Johnson because he was considered an enemy and not due to any violations of the Constitution.
The aftermath of Johnson’s impeachment differs from the two impeachment cases discussed later. Johnson, despite...

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