Can the president be removed from office by Congress?


The president of the United States can be removed from office by Congress through the process of impeachment. This involves the House of Representatives voting to impeach the president, followed by a trial in the Senate. If two-thirds of the Senate vote to convict the president, then the president is removed from office. Congress has only removed two presidents from office in this way – Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998-1999. However, both were acquitted in their Senate trials so remained president.

What does the Constitution say about removing a president?

The Constitution allows for a president to be removed from office through the impeachment process. Article II, Section 4 states that a president can be removed upon “Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The impeachment process begins in the House of Representatives. The House has the sole power to impeach – essentially bringing charges against – the president. A simple majority vote is required to approve articles of impeachment.

If the House approves impeachment, the process moves to a trial in the Senate. Under the Constitution, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the Senate trial. A two-thirds majority, or 67 votes, is required to convict and remove the president from office.

How many presidents have been impeached?

Only two presidents in American history have been impeached by the House of Representatives – Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both Johnson and Clinton were acquitted in their subsequent Senate trials.

In 1974, facing almost certain impeachment over the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon resigned from office before the House could vote on articles of impeachment. So while Nixon was not technically impeached, the impeachment process is what led to his downfall.

No other president has been formally impeached by the House. However, there have been unsuccessful attempts to impeach other presidents, including:

– John Tyler in 1842
– George W. Bush in 2008
– Barack Obama in 2014
– Donald Trump in 2017 and 2019

So impeachment of a president by the House is rare, but has happened twice. Removal from office via a Senate conviction has never happened.

Why was Andrew Johnson impeached in 1868?

Andrew Johnson succeeded Abraham Lincoln as president after Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. Johnson was a Southern Democrat who clashed heavily with the Republican-controlled Congress during Reconstruction after the Civil War.

In February 1868, the House voted to impeach Johnson on 11 articles, primarily related to his violating of the Tenure of Office Act. This law said the president had to get Senate approval before removing certain office holders that had been confirmed by the Senate. Johnson ignored this law and removed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, leading to impeachment.

At his Senate trial, Johnson was narrowly acquitted with a vote of 35-19. One more vote would have reached the two-thirds majority needed to convict and remove him. Johnson remained in office but was heavily weakened politically.

Why was Bill Clinton impeached in 1998?

In 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice related to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The charges stemmed from Clinton lying under oath about his relationship with Lewinsky and attempting to cover it up.

The perjury charge failed in a Senate vote of 45-55. The obstruction of justice charge failed 50-50, far short of the 67 votes needed. Clinton was acquitted on both charges and remained in office, completing his second term.

While Clinton survived removal, he became only the second president impeached by the House. The impeachment process dominated American politics in 1998-1999.

Could a president be removed from office today?

Yes, it is possible that a president could still be impeached by the House and removed by the Senate, but the bar is very high.

For a president to be removed today, it would likely require clear evidence of serious misconduct, likely rising to the level of criminal behavior. Disagreements over policy or loss of political support would not be sufficient grounds for removal on their own.

Given how partisan American politics have become in recent decades, it could also prove difficult to get a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict. In both the Johnson and Clinton cases, most senators voted along party lines. Overcoming that partisanship would be a challenge in any presidential removal attempt today.

What would happen if a president was removed today?

If a president was impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, they would immediately be removed from office.

Under the Presidential Succession Act, the vice president would automatically be sworn in as the new president. So if a president is removed, the sitting vice president completes the remaining portion of the term. For example, if a president was removed in the middle of their 4 year term, the vice president would serve the remaining 2+ years.

A new vice president would then need to be nominated by the new president and confirmed by both houses of Congress. That nomination and confirmation process can happen immediately so there is a new vice president in place with no gap.

Could Trump have been removed from office by impeachment?

Former President Donald Trump was impeached twice by the House during his single term in office but acquitted both times by the Senate, so he could not be removed.

In December 2019, the House impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to soliciting foreign interference from Ukraine in the 2020 election and obstructing the investigation. The Senate acquitted him on both charges in February 2020.

In January 2021, the House impeached Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The Senate trial occurred after Trump left office and acquitted him 57-43, failing to reach the two-thirds threshold.

While Trump was not removed, he is the only president to be impeached twice. However, there were not enough votes in the Senate for removal in either case.

Could a US president ever be removed outside of impeachment?

The Constitution provides only one way for a president to involuntarily leave office prior to the expiration of their term – impeachment and conviction by Congress. There is no provision for the president to be legally removed by other means.

However, there are two scenarios where a president could effectively be removed without impeachment:

1. If the president suffers a serious illness or disability that renders them incapable of fulfilling their duties under the 25th Amendment. The vice president and cabinet could declare the president unfit for office.

2. If the president resigns from office voluntarily. This happened with President Richard Nixon in 1974 when he faced near-certain impeachment. No president has ever been forcibly removed from office through resignation. It would require the president to step down voluntarily.

Barring one of these two scenarios, impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate remains the only constitutionally valid way to remove a president from office prior to an election. There is no legal mechanism to force a president to resign against their will. The impeachment process intended purpose is the removal of a president.


While rare in American history, Congress does have the power under the Constitution to remove a sitting president through the impeachment process. However, substantial evidence of serious misconduct would be required, as well as two-thirds support in the Senate. Given the built-in partisan barriers and high threshold for conviction, actual removal of a president remains unlikely barring extreme circumstances. No president has ever been forcibly removed from office via impeachment and conviction. Resignation due to impending impeachment remains the only example thus far. Despite being written into the Constitution, the impeachment power has not resulted in involuntary removal of a president to date.

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