What Does Impeachment Mean?

Impeachment is a formally initiated process against public officials, including the President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States, for misbehavior in office. Essentially, it is a tool used to hold accountable those holding high offices for their actions.

To understand the term ‘impeachment,’ we should first discuss its origination. The word impeachment comes from the Latin word ‘impeach,’ meaning ‘to catch or seize.’ This term was used in the British legal system for the process of bringing charges against a public official to remove them from their duties. The United States adopted this concept to keep in check the power of its high-ranking officials including, notably, the President.

Now let’s delve deeper into how this process works in the United States. Impeachment in the United States constitution is a two-step process consisting of impeachment, followed by a trial. The US House of Representatives has the power to impeach, that is, bring charges. If the majority of the House Representatives decide that the officer committed “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” impeachment can be initiated. The Senate, then, conducts a trial upon those charges. If the person is found guilty by two-thirds of the senators present, they can be removed from office and disqualified to hold any other governmental office.

Impeachment does not necessarily mean removal from office; it’s only the initiation of charges that could lead to ousting from office following the trial. Moreover, impeachment is a political, rather than a criminal process; even though criminal activity can be an impetus for indictment, the individual can’t face any criminal charges nor can they be sentenced to jail on the basis of impeachment alone.

Importantly, impeachment is viewed as the ultimate tool for maintaining the balance of powers among the three branches of the government: executive, legislative, and judicial. Its purpose is not to punish a wrongdoer but to protect the nation and its institutions from harm by the misuse of power.

To sum up, impeachment is a process used as a check and balance within the US government to prevent those in power from taking actions that could be considered harmful to the institutions and people they swore to serve. While it’s a severe step and not taken lightly, it is an essential part of the democratic system, protecting the sanctity of the offices of the nation.