Two Democratic lawmakers officially filed an article of impeachment for President Donald Trump Wednesday – becoming the first to do so after Trump’s first six months in office was riddled with calls for it.
Reps. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., and Al Green, D-Texas, formally introduced an article of impeachment against Trump for obstruction of justice, citing Trump’s firing for former FBI director James Comey.
The filing comes just one day after Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, publicly released emails regarding his meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign. He said he met with the lawyer to get information about his father’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“It now seems likely that the President had something to hide when he tried to curtail the investigation of [former] National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the wider Russian probe,” Sherman said in a statement.
“We now begin the effort to force the House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on Obstruction of Justice and Russian interference in our election,” he said.
Read on for a look at how the impeachment process works – and just what that means for the president.
What does impeachment mean?
Congress has the ability to remove a sitting president from office before his term is finished – an authority granted by the Constitution.
Along with the president and vice president, all civil officers in the U.S. can be removed from office if they are impeached and convicted of bribery, treason or other high crimes and misdemeanors, according to the Constitution.
How does impeachment work?
Article One of the Constitution grants the House of Representatives the sole power of impeachment; the Senate has the sole authority to try all impeachments. If the president is being tried, the Chief Justice should preside over the trial.
The House must vote, requiring a simple majority vote to adopt the articles of impeachment. Before a vote, the House Judiciary Committee – or another special committee – may investigate the articles.
The House is able to vote to impeach even if the committee does not recommend doing so.
Should that vote be reached, then the House will appoint members – called managers – to act as “prosecutors” as the proceedings will then go to trial in the Senate. The president is able to have defense attorneys.
The Senate would need a two-thirds majority in order to find the president guilty. Should that happen, he is removed from office and the vice president takes office.
“I served with Mike Pence in Congress for 12 years, and I disagree with him on just about everything,” Sherman said. “I never dreamed I would author a measure that would put him in the White House.”
Have other presidents been impeached?
Only two U.S. presidents have been impeached – and neither were removed from office.
Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.
While an impeachment proceeding began against former President Richard Nixon, he was not actually impeached. Nixon was the only president to resign from office.
What is the White House’s response?
Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the impeachment filling “utterly ridiculous” and a “political game at its worst” during a briefing with reporters Wednesday.
Will it work?
With a Republican-led House – and other Democratic congressmen who don’t support impeaching Trump – the lawmaker’s bid to remove Trump from office is a “longshot,” according to the Associated Press.
Democratic leaders have distanced themselves from the efforts to impeach Trump, believing it serves only to energize the president’s supporters.