Although the Constitution does not set forth a detailed plan for the impeachment process, the House and Senate have followed a set of procedures throughout history. Listed below are the basics of what to expect as the Congress moves forward.
According to Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution of the United 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."
Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States grants the House of Representatives the "the sole power of impeachment."
Although the Constitution does not elaborate on impeachment procedures, the established House practice is to begin with a resolution authorizing the Judiciary Committee to investigate the charges brought forth.
The House Judiciary Committee then holds hearings and investigates the charges.
If the Judiciary Committee's findings support the charges, it issues an impeachment resolution, which includes Articles of Impeachment, to the full House. If the committee believes impeachment is unwarranted, it issues a resolution stating that it is unwarranted to the full House.
The resolution then goes to House floor for consideration. If the House adopts any one of the Articles of Impeachment by a simple majority vote, the official is considered impeached and the matter goes to the Senate for trial.
Article I, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states: "The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments."
A fixed number of House members act as "managers", or prosecutors, at the Senate trial. These managers are chosen either by the Speaker of the House or by ballot. Traditionally, an odd number of managers, between 5-11, have been selected. They include members from both parties who voted for impeachment.
The impeached official's lawyers will present his/her defense. He/she has the right to testify and cross-examine witnesses, as in any criminal proceeding.
The full Senate will act as the jury.
If the trial involves the President of the United States, the Constitution states that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside over the trial.
At the trial's conclusion, the Senate meets in a closed session to discuss a verdict. Each Senator is allowed 15 minutes of debate.
The Senate then votes in open session on each Article of Impeachment. A two-thirds vote is required for conviction. If convicted, the Senate may hold a separate vote to remove the impeached official from office. Such a vote is unnecessary for the Constitution states the federal officials shall be removed from office upon impeachment and conviction. If no article is approved by two-thirds of the vote, the official is acquitted.
The Senate may also vote to disqualify the convicted official from holding future federal office. This is decided by a majority vote.
Debate over the meaning of this phrase has existed since the framing of the Constitution. Ultimately, Congress decides what constitutes "high crimes and misdemeanors". In 1970, Rep. Gerald Ford, R-Michigan, succinctly summarized this point when he stated: "An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history."