The process of impeachment was outlined in the Constitution when it was drafted in 1787. To date, 19 officials, including judges, cabinet members, senators, and presidents, have been impeached and stood trial. The crimes these individuals have been charged with range from perjury to conspiracy to intoxication on the bench. It is important to note that impeachment is not the actual removal from office, but merely the process to remove an official. Currently, members of the House of Representatives are investigating President Trump to determine if he should be impeached.
- Students will analyze the impeachment clause of the Constitution to understand the role Congress plays in impeachment proceedings
- Students will examine past cases in order to understand the impeachment process
Warm-up Activity (15 minutes)
Directions: Have students read Article I Section 2 and Section 3 and Article II Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution (Handout A). Then have them answer the following questions.
- What is impeachment?
- What is the House of Representatives’ role in impeachment proceedings?
- What is the Senate’s role in impeachment proceedings?
- For what crimes can an officer of the United States be removed from office?
- Why do you think the Framers of the Constitution gave the House and the Senate separate powers in impeachment proceedings? How is this reflected in other sections of the Constitution?
Activity (30 minutes)
Directions: Assign students to research an impeachment case from U.S. history in groups and prepare a presentation for the classroom. You can find a full list of individuals impeached here. Students should use the following questions to guide their research.
- What was the impeached individual’s name? What position of government did they hold?
- What year was the individual impeached?
- What was the individual charged with?
- Was the individual removed from office? Do you believe that the Senate made the correct decision in the case?
The Bill of Rights Institute’s Think the Vote platform is designed to foster student debate and discussion of current events issues. This week, our question is: Should the impeachment clause of the Constitution stay broadly written and applied? Students with the best answer on each side of the debate and their referring teacher will each win a $25 Amazon gift card and BRI swag. Additionally, each student will be entered to win the grand prize of a $1,000 scholarship.