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Reminder: Impeaching the President Wouldn't Necessarily Remove Him From Office

May 17, 2017

Questions about impeachment intensified on Wednesday, following reports that President Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to shut down an investigation into his former national security advisor.

Texas Rep. Al Green, a Democrat, called for impeachment on the House floor Wednesday, and at least one Republican lawmaker has suggested that, if true, the report represents an impeachable offense.

But impeachment is a complex political process that, alone, won't remove a president from the Oval Office.

Only two presidents in U.S. history have been impeached. And no U.S. president has ever been impeached and removed from office.

In order for a president to be impeached, a resolution for impeachment must pass the House by a simple majority. In and of itself, that's a steep hurdle, especially when the president's own party has control, as Republicans do now.

But in order to actually be removed from office, a president must be convicted by a two-thirds majority in the Senate — something that has never happened before.

Former President Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 on charges of lying under oath to a federal grand jury, and Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 on charges of violating the Tenure of Office Act by firing the Secretary of War. But neither Clinton nor Johnson were convicted by the Senate, and both served out the remainder of their presidential terms.

While Democrats and other Trump critics continue to raise the specter of impeachment, it's important to note just how difficult it is to impeach a president — and how much more difficult it is to actually remove him from the White House.

If it happened, it would be unprecedented.

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