Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi initiated impeachment inquiries on Tuesday, September 24. Regardless of the outcome, it is a notable historical event in U.S. history that will provide precedential value in potential future impeachment considerations.
It is a complex area of the law, one which “vexed the framers” in the words of one Supreme Court justice.
Below you can find links to the U.S. Constitution where impeachment is mentioned, as well as a summary of various legal theories about the process of impeachment.
Want to read what the Constitution says about impeachment yourself? It doesn’t take long. Impeachment is mentioned in Article I in Sections 2 and 3. Article II, Section 4 is the most commonly cited, and states: “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.” Finally, Article III, Section 2 states: "The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury . . ."
If a direct reading of the Constitution doesn’t offer you a great amount of insight, that is partially by design. Impeachment is a political process, and the framers understood it as such. Still, numerous legal theories exist. Here are annotations to Article II, Section 4.
Also, be sure to check out FindLaw’s legal article on the standards and procedures of impeachment, which provides a summary of the process of impeachment, as well as different schools of interpretation as to what constitutes an impeachable offense.
Just what does “high crimes and misdemeanors” mean? Get ready to brush up on your William Blackstone. (Note: this article was written during Bill Clinton’s impeachment)
It’s not just the president. Federal judges and state officials have also been impeached. These more varied examples can perhaps provide more insight than just looking at the cases of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, the only two U.S. Presidents to be impeached.
Probably not. Still, the Supreme Court has kept a toe in the water as to its right to weigh in. In Nixon v. United States (not that Nixon) the Supreme Court found impeachment to be nonjusticiable, but in a concurring opinion, Justice White and Justice Blackmun did not see the Constitution as prohibiting a check on the Senate’s power to impeach.
Impeach (FindLaw’s Legal Dictionary)
Trump Impeachment Inquiry Announced -- What's Next? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)