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What Happens When A President Is Impeached?

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Senate Television
/
AP
Presiding officer Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts listens during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 30 2020.

Curious kids are hearing about the impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump. So But Why is helping them understand what impeachment is and what happens when a president is impeached. We'll explain why impeachment is an important part of the US constitution and why impeaching a president doesn't mean removing him or her from office.

Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript

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"What happens when presidents get impeached?" -Evie, 7, Illinois

Our guests for this episode are Loyola Law School professor and legal analyst Jessica Levinson and Kenneth C. Davis, author of Don't Know Much About History and other books.

Davis points out that the framers of the Constitution knew they were placing an enormous amount of power in the hands of the Commander in Chief and wanted a way to ensure that a president could be removed from office more immediately than the next scheduled election if necessary.

Impeachment is when someone is removed from their job between elections because they have done something wrong. "It's not about whether he's committed a crime. It's about whether he's done something in his job so bad that he shouldn't be able to keep his job," Levinson says.

First, a majority of the House has to vote on the articles of impeachment. But just because a president is impeached by the House, it doesn't mean he or she loses the presidency. "The other people who we have elected to be the leaders of our country"--Senators--"are trying to determine what happened and whether or not the president should lose his job," says Levinson.

For a president to be removed, two-thirds of the Senate must vote in favor of removal. This has never happened in US history.

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