FACT CHECK: Viral Meme Confuses The Facts On Impeaching A Sitting President
An image shared on Facebook claimed that Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution says, “If the president is impeached for treason, the vice president and all civil officers shall be removed.”
This is not what Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution says, nor is it an accurate paraphrase of the Constitution’s language on impeachment. Every official must be impeached and then removed separately, regardless of whether the president has been impeached.
This image was shared as Democrats consider whether to impeach President Donald Trump, with the meme claiming that per Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, “If the president is impeached for treason, the vice president and all civil officers shall be removed.”
This is not accurate.
Adam Carrington, who teaches constitutional law at Hillsdale College, referred to this as “a very bad reading” of Article II, Section 4 in an email to The Daily Caller.
What that section actually says is, “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.”
This means that any of the listed officials – president, vice president or civil officer – can be removed from office for treason. It does not mean, however, that if one of those officials is impeached, then all of them are removed simultaneously. The image misconstrues the use of the word “all” in the original text.
“‘All’ explains the extent of who can be impeached: any civil officer. It in no way attaches the removal of one officer to the impeachment of another,” Carrington told the Caller.
Furthermore, the processes of impeachment and removal occur separately, and impeachment can occur without removal from office.
The process begins in the House of Representatives, where a simple majority must vote to approve articles of impeachment. Then, the Senate holds a trial to determine if the charges leveled should lead to removal from office, which requires two-thirds support.
“The House charges and the Senate gives a trial. Thus, like in courts of law, each person accused should have a distinct process of accusation and trial,” Carrington said. “In the serious cases of impeachment proceedings, I don’t know of a single one that involved more than one person at a time.”
Only eight individuals have been both impeached by the House and removed from office by the Senate, all of them federal judges. Two presidents – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton – were impeached by the House but not removed by the Senate.