Lesson Plan: Congressional Power of Impeachment

Introduction to Impeachment

Author Allan Lichtman discussed the process for impeachment and trial as well as the consequences of this process.

Description

In the Constitution, the Congress is given the sole power of impeachment and removing the President and all civil officers from office. This power of Legislative Branch provides a significant check over the Executive and Judicial Branches. This lesson provides explanations of the Constitutional basis of the power, the process for removing officials and the history of impeachments and removing these officials from office. It also provides discussions on the standards of impeachments and how those are interpreted by Congress.

Procedures

  • WARM-UP:

    Have the students answer the following question before beginning the lesson.

    • How can Presidents be removed from office?
  • INTRODUCTION:

    As a class or individually, have the students view the video clip below and answer the questions associated with it. Students can use the Power of Impeachment handout to answer the questions throughout the lesson. Review the students' responses to clarify any misconceptions before continuing with the lesson.

    Handout: Power of Impeachment handout (Google Doc)

    Video Clip 1: Introduction to Impeachment (1:21)

    • What are the offenses that Presidents, Vice Presidents and all other civil officers can be impeached and convicted for?
    • What is the process for impeachment and conviction in this process?
    • Who were the two Presidents who were impeached? What were the results of these impeachments?
  • EXPLORATION:

    Have the students use the handout to answer the questions associated with each clip.

    Video Clip 2: The Constitutional Convention and the Power of Impeachment (1:07)

    • According to Ms. Sunstein, why was the inclusion of impeachment in the Constitution so vital to the founders?

    Video Clip 3: High Crimes and Misdemeanors (1:49)

    • Explain what Judge Hastings mean by "there is no standard" for impeachment.
    • What are problems with the lack of clarity on the standards for impeachment for the Senate?
    • Besides the President, who else does Congress have the power to impeach and convict?

    Video Clip 4: Impeachable Offenses (1:54)

    • What does Mr. Sunstein mean by impeachable offenses and crimes not being the same?
    • Explain the examples that Mr. Sunstein views as specific examples of impeachable offenses.

    Video Clip 5: The Process of Impeachment (1:51)

    • Explain how the impeachment process is like a trial?
    • How does the impeachment process safeguard against Presidents and other civil officers being removed for political reasons?

    Video Clip 6: Historical Impeachments of the President (1:27)

    • How does Mr. Sunstein view the impeachments of President Johnson and President Clinton?
    • How was President Nixon's situation different than Clinton and Johnson?

    Video Clip 7: The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson (3:27)

    • Explain the actions of Andrew Johnson when he became president that eventually led to his impeachment.
    • Describe the results of the impeachment trial.

    Video Clip 8: The Impeachment of President Bill Clinton (4:20)

    Video Clip 9: Senate Trial of President Bill Clinton (1:47)

    • Explain the two articles of impeachment that President Clinton faced.
    • Compare the impeachments of Presidents Clinton and Johnson.
    • What were the results of the Senate trial of President Bill Clinton?
    • What were the differences between the House and the Senate during the impeachment of President Clinton?
  • APPLICATION:

    Present the following text of the Constitution to the students:

    "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."

    Using the information from the videos and the text of the Constitution, have the students debate which specific offenses should fall under impeachable offenses. Have them debate the following question:

    • How should Congress define the standard of impeachment? Which specific offenses should fall under "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors?" Provide reasons for your arguments.
  • CONCLUSION:

    As an exit slip have the students answer the following question.

    • How does the impeachment process serve as a safeguard for democracy?
  • EXTENSION ACTIVITIES:

    Historical Impeachment Trials- Research the events in the Johnson or Clinton impeachment trials. Based on your standards of impeachment determine if the offenses by either Presidents Johnson or Clinton met the standard of "high crimes and misdemeanors."

    Additional Writing Prompts-

    • Describe the impeachment process. How could this process be improved?
    • Is the impeachment process too political? Explain your reasoning.
    • Should there be a law that properly defines the standards of impeachment? Explain your answers.
    • Does the Congress have too much power in the impeachment process? Why or why not?
    • Should there be a way to appeal the removal from office that occurs in the impeachment process? If so, what should the process be?

Additional Resources

Vocabulary

  • Acquitted
  • Bribery
  • Cabinet
  • Chief Executive
  • Constitution
  • Convict
  • Corruption
  • Due Process
  • Grand Jury
  • High Crimes And Misdemeanors
  • House Of Representatives
  • Impeachment
  • Indictment
  • Investigation
  • Monarchy
  • Oath
  • Obstruction Of Justice
  • Pardon
  • Perjury
  • Precedent
  • President
  • Prosecutor
  • Ratify
  • Senate
  • Treason

Topics

Constitutional FoundationExecutive BranchLegislative Branch

Grades

Middle SchoolHigh SchoolUniversity