Formal written allegations of the causes that warrant the criminal trial of a public official before a quasi-political court.
In cases of IMPEACHMENT, involving the president, vice president, or other federal officers, the House of Representatives prepares the articles of impeachment, since it is endowed with the "sole Power of Impeachment," under Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the Constitution. The articles are sent to the Senate, which has the exclusive power to "try all Impeachments" by virtue of Article I, Section 3, Clause 6.
The use of articles of impeachment against state officials is governed by state constitutions and statutes.
Articles of impeachment are analogous to an indictment that initiates criminal prosecutions of private persons.
Articles of impeachment have been drafted against three U.S presidents, ANDREW JOHNSON, RICHARD M. NIXON, and WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON. Nixon resigned before the full House could vote to approve the articles of impeachment prepared by the judiciary committee, while Johnson and Clinton were both acquitted during Senate trials that were bitterly divided along party lines.
On February 24, 1868, the U.S House of Representatives voted to impeach President Andrew Johnson. A week later the House approved 11 articles of impeachment, accusing the president of OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, thwarting duly enacted federal laws, improvidently removing military governors from the southern states, and attempting to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt, and reproach the CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES. Most historians consider all of the charges against Johnson to have been politically motivated, as the House of Representatives was controlled by radical Republicans who favored Reconstruction Era legislation that Johnson opposed.
In August 1867, Johnson tried to remove the last staunch Reconstructionist from his cabinet by dismissing Secretary of War EDWIN STANTON and replacing him with General ULYSSES S. GRANT. The Senate refused to approve the dismissal, so Johnson replaced Stanton with another general. One article of impeachment charged that Stanton's dismissal violated the TENURE OF OFFICE ACT, which prohibited the president from dismissing cabinet members without the Senate's approval.
Johnson's trial in the Senate commenced March 13, 1868, and...