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If the House of Representatives impeaches a president, everything I read says that there is then a trial by the Senate regarding removal from office. If the House impeaches a president, is it legally necessary to go forward with a Senate trial or is it an option for the House?

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    this question was truncated. My question was, if the house impeaches a president, is it legally necessary to go forward with a senate trial or is it an option for the house? – Leonard M Fertig Nov 7 at 16:26
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    "is it legally necessary to go forward with a Senate trial or is it an option for the House?" Is actually two different questions: "does the Senate have to go to trial [at all]", and "can either the Senate or the House decide to go to trial (if the other decides not to, for example)". – TylerH Nov 8 at 16:20
  • What do you mean by "option for the House"? Are you asking if they get to decide whether to send the impeachment to the Senate for a trial? Even if it were, why would they impeach if they didn't want to do this? The vote to impeach is essentially the decision to send to the Senate. – Barmar Nov 8 at 17:56
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Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 says

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.

Therefore, the House cannot try an impeachment.

The wording of the Constitution does not say "The Senate must try any impeachment delivered by the House". The option to reject an impeachment by simple majority runs completely counter to Senate tradition. But analogous to deployment of the "nuclear option" to change Senate rules, it is a conceivable outcome. The first impeachment presented to the Senate was against a Senator, William Blount in 1797, and in that instance the Senate appears to have voted that Blount was not an impeachable officer (so they did not vote on impeachment, but they did vote to expel him). In Nixon v. US, SCOTUS ruled that Senate impeachment actions are not justiciable. While current Senate rules require a trial, the rules can be changed by the Senate by a majority vote, and SCOTUS will not review such actions.

The Senate can also adjourn and not take up one or more articles, as happened in Andrew Johnson's case.

  • "The option to reject an impeachment by simple majority runs completely counter to Senate tradition": I read recently that some judicial impeachments have been dismissed by the senate rather than tried, or at least one was. I didn't look into it in detail, however, and I don't know how reliable the source was. – phoog Nov 8 at 2:41
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    It's true that the first impeachment was rejected by the Senate, but instead they threw the guy out under their own rules. Blount, 1797. It remains judicially unclear whether a Congressman is "a civil officer of the United States", but by Senate rules, Congressmen cannot be impeached. – user6726 Nov 8 at 2:59
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    @phoog - I know there have been several judicial impeachments which have been rendered moot by the judge in question retiring. You can't impeach someone from an office they no longer hold. I don't know if there have been any actual dismissals of a still-relevant impeachment, though. – Bobson Nov 8 at 16:18
  • @Bobson interesting point. The reason for a dismissal would indeed be significant. Indeed, if it were done because the impeached officer had left the office for one reason or another then that would be quite different from dismissal on grounds related to the merits of the articles of impeachment or for political considerations. – phoog Nov 8 at 17:09
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The other answers are correct to say that the trial takes place in the Senate and that the constitution does not say that the Senate must take the issue up. It simply says the Senate shall try all impeachments.

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.

Senate rules indicate that the Senate should take up the matter.

III. Upon such articles being presented to the Senate, the Senate shall, at 1 o’clock afternoon of the day (Sunday excepted) following such presentation, or sooner if ordered by the Senate, proceed to the consideration of such articles and shall continue in session from day to day (Sundays excepted) after the trial shall commence (unless otherwise ordered by the Senate) until final judgment shall be rendered, and so much longer as may, in its judgment, be needful.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/background/impeach/senaterules.pdf

Sometimes Senate rules are ignored, but the intent of the rules is clearly that a trial should be held. There may not be an official trial, but under the rules, the decisions of the house must at least be considered by the Senate.

https://www.lawfareblog.com/can-senate-decline-try-impeachment-case

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    I agree with all the points you make, but I would add that if the Senate failed to conduct a trial, that its failure to do so would probably be a non-justiciable political question that the courts would not consider or resolve. – ohwilleke Nov 7 at 20:02
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    Saying that "the senate shall have the sole power to try" impeachments, which is what the constitution actually says, is very different from saying that the senate " shall try" them as this answer asserts. – phoog Nov 8 at 2:44
  • @phoog Did you read the answer? It says the Senate rules indicate the Senate SHOULD take the matter up. No where did I say the constitution says it has to lol. – Putvi Nov 8 at 19:14
  • @ohwilleke, I would probably agree unless there was some kind of bribery or something like that. – Putvi Nov 8 at 19:15
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    @Putvi yes, I read the answer. My comment is in reaction to the sentence "It simply says the Senate shall try all impeachments." The constitution does not in fact say "the Senate shall try all impeachments"; if it did say that then there would be a much stronger case for the position that the constitution requires a trial. – phoog Nov 8 at 21:56
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Note: Answering the question made in the comments.

A trial by the Senate is constitutionally required; the House initiates the process of removal, and the Senate then conducts a trial and votes as to whether to remove the President (or a federal judge for that matter) from office.

This is by design; The House is weighted by population, while the Senate has equal representation by State. Both Houses of Congress are required to act in concert for Congress to exercise its unappealable impeachment power against the other branches of government. (For impeaching within the Legislative Branch, each House has sole jurisdiction over itself; i.e. the House of Representatives governs the House of Representatives, and the Senate governs the Senate).

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    If you think a Senate trial is required you might ask Merritt Garland how his required Senate advice and consent preceeding went. There is no impeachment for members of Congress but they can be expelled. – George White Nov 7 at 20:43
  • The House impeaches, the Senate convicts. – user6726 Nov 7 at 20:49
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    @George That is a different situation altogether and need not have the same requirements as a senate impeachment trial. That being said, of the 37 unsuccessful supreme court nominees, only 11 received a vote in the senate. Garland is far from the first to not get a vote. – Matt Nov 8 at 2:22
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    This first to essentially not even be acknowledged as having been dully nominated. – George White Nov 8 at 2:27
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    @Matt how were the other 26 nominations resolved? Nominations were withdrawn, candidates withdrew themselves, and perhaps a committee declined to send the nomination to the full senate for consideration. All of those are quite different from what happened to Merrick Garland, whose nomination was never even considered. – phoog Nov 8 at 3:00
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The term "Impeach" when used in this manner is akin to a "charge" by a prosecution of a crime (here the charges are called "Articles of Impeachment") and the Impeached officer is as guilty as someone who is charged with a crime (that is to say, they are presumed guilty until the prosecution proves otherwise).

The House must submit all "Articles of Impeachment" to the Senate and a group of House members will act as Prosecutor while the officer's legal response will be the officer's defense. Per Senate.gov, the Senate is "The High Court of Impeachment" (and confirmed by SCOTUS in Nixon v. United States) so there is no appeal process for any decision rendered by the Senate. With exception to the Jury, the trial is like any U.S. trial court (the Jury is the present Senate and conviction is on 2/3rds majority. If all 100 senators are present, it is 67 yea votes.). Conviction immediately removes the officer from office and the Senate may at a later date bar the convicted individual from holding future federal office by 51% majority.

While the House must bring charges to the Senate, the Senate has the right to dismiss the charges or adjourn the trial without a vote on a charge, sine die, though both cases happened only once for each instance in U.S. History. As the High Court of Impeachment, these would have the legal effect of dismissal with prejudice in an ordinary judicial court (i.e. the Court refuses to hear this case and will not accept refiling for any reason) and can happen with a 51% majority as well.

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    "the Impeached officer is as guilty as someone who is charged with a crime (that is to say, they are presumed guilty until the prosecution proves otherwise)": that's nonsense. If you are trying to make a rhetorical point, it's lost on me, so the answer just sounds like it was written by someone who doesn't know anything about criminal law. Or did you simply write "guilty" when you meant to write "innocent"? – phoog Nov 8 at 3:02
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    Also, it's not a "51%" majority but a simple majority, which is any percentage greater than 50%, including 50.5%. – phoog Nov 8 at 3:06

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