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It can be hard to remember given the speed with which news is made and unmade these days, but we’re currently watching history play out in real-time at the White House. President Donald Trump is just the fourth president in the history of the United States to face serious impeachment proceedings, following in the footsteps of former Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton. (None of them were removed from office for impeachment: Nixon stepped down before a vote could take place and Johnson and Clinton were both impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate.) And when it comes to Trump, all bets are off with regard to how the next few months will play out.
Each impeachment inquiry is unique, like a snowflake. With the Trump administration refusing to comply with the House of Representatives’ current investigation, it isn’t going to be easy for impeachment to make its way through Congress. But if it does, the much-anticipated impeachment inquiry would make its way into the hallowed halls of the Senate. You may already know the broad strokes of what that means, but let’s take a closer look at what our future may hold.
Here’s what we do know: Impeachment proceedings have to go through the House of Representatives and the Senate. In the house, impeachment is, well, a mess. The procedure is complex and convoluted and the Constitution doesn’t clear things up or tell members of Congress how to go about the thing. Because of that, we end up leaving on the historical context of Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton pretty heavily. Thankfully, it’s a little bit clearer in the Senate than it is in the House.
So let’s take things one step at a time, with a loose guide on how a presidents impeachment plays out in the Senate:
Step 1: Get To Know The Senate’s Role In The Impeachment Inquiry
If the impeachment conversation reaches the Senate, an official has already technically been impeached. Given that the definition of impeachment is a “charge of misconduct,” being impeached means that the House of Representatives has already brought those same charges of misconduct against a given person. In this case? It’s the President, though Senators, judges, and even Secretaries of War have all been impeached in the past.
The “High Court of Impeachment,” according to the Senate’s official website, decides whether or not a pres