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in Great Britain and United States, formal accusation issued by a legislature against a public official charged with crime or other serious misconduct. In a looser sense the term is sometimes applied also to the trial by the legislature that may follow. In other countries, impeachment may refer to the removal of a public official from office instead of the accusation. Impeachment developed in England, beginning in the 14th cent., as a means of trying officials suspected of dereliction of duty. The English procedure was for the House of Commons to prosecute by presenting articles of impeachment to the House of Lords, which rendered judgment. Any penalty, including death, might be inflicted. The impeachment (1787) and trial (1788–95) of Warren HastingsHastings, Warren,
1732–1818, first governor-general of British India. Employed (1750) as a clerk by the East India Company, he soon became manager of a trading post in Bengal.
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 was among the last of the English cases.

In the United States impeachment of public officials is provided for in the federal government and in most states. In federal matters the U.S. Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power to impeach civil officers of the United States, including the President and Vice President, but not including members of Congress. Impeachments are tried by the Senate, with the concurrence of two thirds of the members present needed for conviction. The sole penalties on conviction are removal from office and disqualification from holding other federal office; however, the convicted party is liable to subsequent criminal trial and punishment for the same offense.

There have been 19 impeachments tried by the Senate and eight convictions. Three of the best-known cases, which did not result in conviction, were those of Supreme Court Justice Samuel ChaseChase, Samuel,
1741–1811, political leader in the American Revolution, signer of the Declaration of Independence, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1796–1811), b. Somerset co., Md.
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, President Andrew JohnsonJohnson, Andrew,
1808–75, 17th President of the United States (1865–69), b. Raleigh, N.C. Early Life

His father died when Johnson was 3, and at 14 he was apprenticed to a tailor.
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, and President Bill Clinton (see Lewinsky scandalLewinsky scandal
, sensation that enveloped the presidency of Bill Clinton in 1998–99, leading to his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives and acquittal by the Senate.
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). In 1974 the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives voted to bring impeachment charges against President Richard Nixon (see Watergate affairWatergate affair,
in U.S. history, series of scandals involving the administration of President Richard M. Nixon; more specifically, the burglarizing of the Democratic party national headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington, D.C.
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), but Nixon resigned before the House took action.


See studies by I. Brant (1972), R. Berger (1973), C. L. Black, Jr. (1974), J. R. Labovitz (1978), and R. A. Posner (1999).

References in periodicals archive ?
If Oregonians ever found themselves in need of an impeachment provision and did not have one, however, the regrets would be deep.
The impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton was a singular event in American political history.
13) Although the majority opinion's language was broad enough to cover all impeachments, and not just those of federal judges, we believe that impeachment of a president, which involves much higher stakes, warrants some potential (but not required) judicial scrutiny to assure its legitimacy.
To resist that possibility, Sunstein insisted that impeachments be limited to "a narrow category of egregious or large-scale abuses of authority that comes from the exercise of distinctly presidential powers.
An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton, by Richard A.
With the Senate lurching toward a showdown this week over whether to end the historic proceedings, Democrats attacked the House impeachment managers over their secret attempt to compel Lewinsky to submit to questioning without the Senate's approval.
id at 107-21 (arguing that impeachments are justiciable); id.
Another recent development that has become important to the impeachment process, but that did not figure into either the Chase or Johnson impeachments, has had to do with the innovations made by the Twelfth Amendment (which arguably helped to transform the President into a popularly elected official as opposed to one that had been primarily chosen by the Electoral College) and Seventeenth Amendment (which changed the way in which Senators were elected, from being chosen by their respective state legislatures to the citizenry of their respective states).
Despite growing apprehension within GOP ranks about the political wisdom of impeaching Clinton, the witness list suggests committee Republicans intend to expand their impeachment investigation beyond the Lewinsky scandal into allegations that the president groped White House volunteer Kathleen Willey and then encouraged allies to seek her silence.
If an impeachment proceeding goes forward, the judiciary can only get in the way.
If the Framers similarly had intended to exclude impeachments from the President's veto power, surely they would have said so.
We sincerely hope, for the good of the country, that there isn't enough in Starr's report and vanloads of evidence to support impeachment on the constitutional grounds of ``high crimes and misdemeanors.