How long does impeachment take? When do proceedings begin? On Sept. 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she was calling for a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. However, that doesn’t mean that impeachment proceedings will begin immediately.
Before the House votes on impeachment, the House Judiciary Committee must vote to approve articles of impeachment. Then, a majority of the House of Representatives (218 votes) would need to vote in favor of impeachment. Democrats hold a 235-198 advantage in the House. The Democrat majority could bring impeachment charges against Trump without any Republicans voting in favor.
A formal impeachment inquiry can take place months before the proceedings begin. One president, Richard Nixon, resigned after impeachment articles were approved by the House Judiciary Committee and before the House voted on the impeachment charges. The Senate presides over the proceeding, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court sitting in as judge. In order to remove the president from office, the Senate must vote with 2/3 majority in favor.
So an official charge of impeachment by the House of Representatives technically can happen in a day — but impeachment proceedings can take months, from the very beginning to the very end, when the Senate votes on whether or not to remove the president from office.
Here’s what you need to know:
Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment Proceedings Took Over 3 Months
Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached. His impeachment process, from beginning to end, was also the fastest.
Johnson was charged with 11 articles of impeachment on March 2, 1868, many of them related to his conduct following the Civil War. You can read all articles of impeachment in full here, per the United States Senate.
According to U.S. Senate Archives, the trial took several months. Johnson did not attend the trial himself, according to a summary of the proceedings on the Senate page. He didn’t attend because he was advised by a lawyer not to.
On May 16, 1868, the Senate voted on three articles related to Johnson’s impeachment charges. A 2/3 majority was needed for conviction, and was not reached. In total, 35 senators voted to convict the president and 19 senators voted to acquit.
Johnson was acquitted of impeachment charges on May 26, 1868. The end of his impeachment proceedings came to be just under three months long, in total. You can read a full chronological timeline of the impeachment proceedings here.
Bill Clinton’s Impeachment Proceedings Took Approximately 2 Months
In November 1995, President Bill Clinton began a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. This alleged affair would continue, on and off, for 18 months.
By January 26, 1998, Clinton had been publicly accused of sexual misconduct by Lewinsky. On January 28, 1999, he said his now infamous quote a White House press conference: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
Several months later, in August 1999, Clinton finally admitted to having an affair with Lewinsky, during grand jury testimony. According to the archived transcript from CNN, he said, “Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.”
It would be almost a full year before the House of Representatives formally impeached Bill Clinton, on Dec. 19, 1998. It’s worth noting that Clinton’s approval rating hit an all-time high following news of impeachment charges, as The Guardian notes.
Clinton’s impeachment proceedings formally began on Jan. 7, 1999; the trial lasted five weeks in total. The senate voted on Clinton’s potential removal from office on Feb. 12, 1999. For the charges of perjury, 45 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted “not guilty,” and for the charges of obstruction of justice, it was a 50-50 split. Neither vote reached the 2/3 majority necessary to remove a president from office.
So from beginning to end, Clinton’s impeachment process was almost exactly two months long. Of course, that doesn’t include the countless interviews, hearings, and statements that took place in the years leading up to his acquittal.