What crimes can trigger impeachment of the president?

When can the president be impeached and for what crimes? What actions can trigger impeachment under the U.S. Constitution?

With the controversy surrounding the Ukraine whistleblower and the active impeachment inquiry in congress, we go back to the basics on federal impeachment. In this brief, Judge Andrew Napolitano breaks down the rules governing federal impeachment in the Constitution and shares informative historical examples of presidents and judges who faced impeachment.


  Judge Andrew Napolitano is a constitutional law professor, an author, and the senior judicial analyst at Fox News.


Additional Resources

"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."  (United States Constitution, Article II, Section 4)

What crimes can trigger impeachment of the president? Brief Transcript

Andrew Napolitano: Judge Andrew Napolitano here. What does it take to impeach the president of the United States, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the director of the FBI, the head of the Library of Congress? Well, the standard is the same for all federal impeachments, which is treason, bribery, or "other high crimes and misdemeanors." That of course is the catchphrase. Federal judges have been impeached for bribery. No judges in the post-civil war era have been impeached for treason. Only two American presidents have been impeached, and neither has been removed from office, and both were for the category of other high crimes of misdemeanors. President Andrew Johnson for his refusal to enforce the Tenure of Office Act, a statute that regulated how people stayed in federal office. Bill Clinton for lying under oath about a matter that did not involve how work as the president of the United States.

Bill Clinton: That is not my recollection. My recollection is that I did not have sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, and I'm staying on my former statement about that.

Napolitano: The Supreme Court has not ruled on this in connection with a president. But it has ruled on it in connection with federal judges. Judge Alcee Hastings, now Congressman Alcee Hastings, was indicted, charged, tried, and acquitted of bribery. And he was still impeached from the federal bench, because the standard of proof for impeachment is preponderance of evidence. The standard of proof in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt, and the House of Representatives on the Senate decided there was enough evidence of bribery to impeach, but obviously not enough to convict. Judge Napolitano here. Thank you for watching TalksOnLaw.