Skip to Main Content

Federal Impeachment

Donald J. Trump

President Donald Trump is the only United States federal official to have been impeached twice. Like the two other presidential impeachment trials (Presidents Johnson and Clinton), in neither proceeding did the Senate convict President Trump.

The Trump impeachment proceedings were the first presidential impeachment proceedings to take place in the digital era. Hundreds of primary documents related to the impeachment proceedings were publicly released and made available online. Researchers can find many of these compilations online. Librarians at the Law Library of Congress relied heavily on two compilations published by librarian Kelly L. Smith at University of California San Diego: U.S. Government Information: Whistleblower External and Attack on the U.S. Capitol / Impeachment External.

Featured Links

First Impeachment (2019-2020)

The circumstances leading up to the first impeachment proceedings primarily pertained to a July 25, 2019, telephone call between President Trump and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, a transcript of which was released in September 2019 (PDF). During the phone call, President Trump asked Ukraine to investigate (or announce an investigation into) a theory that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 presidential election to aid President Trump, but rather that Ukraine interfered in the election to aid Hillary Clinton External. President Trump further asked Ukraine to investigate (or announce an investigation into) Hunter Biden's involvement with a Ukrainian company; Hunter Biden is the son of Joseph R. Biden, who was emerging as President Trump's chief political rival in the upcoming 2020 presidential election. Also in the summer of 2019, the Trump Administration decided to withhold $391 million in US security aid to Ukraine, which had been appropriated by Congress.

In August 2019, a whistleblower filed a complaint (publicly released in September 2019 External (PDF) to the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees), alleging that the President Trump was using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US presidential election for personal gain. The whistleblower referenced the July 2019 telephone call between President Trump and President Zelenskyy; the administration's efforts to restrict access to the records of the telephone call; and the change in US policy with respect to the US security aid to Ukraine.

On September 24, 2019, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced External that the House would proceed with an official impeachment inquiry into whether President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection. Numerous depositions and hearings related to the inquiry took place in the fall of 2019. Two articles of impeachment, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, were eventually put before the House (116 H. Res. 755). On December 18, 2019, the House impeached President Trump by passing both articles of impeachment, largely along party lines.

The first impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump was held before the Senate from January 21-31, 2020. The votes on the two articles of impeachment took place on February 5, 2020. In neither vote did at least two-thirds of the Senate vote to convict, thus the Senate found President Trump not guilty on both articles of impeachment.

Second Impeachment (2021)

The circumstances leading up to the second impeachment pertained to the attack on the Capitol Building during the January 6, 2021 joint session of Congress (PDF) to count the electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election.

By January 6, 2021, it was clear that Joseph R. Biden had garnered the majority of the Electoral College votes (306 votes for Biden to 232 votes for Trump); thus, it was expected that after the joint session, Congress would declare Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Since Election Day, however, President Trump had been claiming that he was the true winner of the presidential election.

On January 6, 2021, President Trump held a public rally to challenge the Congressional certification of the election results. Tens of thousands of President Trump's supporters gathered in Washington, D.C. to attend the rally and to protest the results of the Electoral College. During the rally External, President Trump encouraged his supporters to walk to the Capitol Building and give "weak" lawmakers "the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country (PDF)." During the early afternoon, the large crowds that had amassed at the Capitol Building breached the outer security barriers. A riot was declared and the Capitol Building was locked down. The mob then broke into the Capitol Building and interrupted the congressional proceedings. The lawmakers inside were rushed from the chambers to secure locations. There were numerous altercations between law enforcement officers and protestors, resulting in multiple serious injuries and several deaths. Eventually, the Capitol Building was re-secured, the joint session resumed, and Congress officially declared Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election. A June 2021 report (PDF) issued by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration provides a detailed timeline of the events on January 6, 2021.

On January 11, 2021, the House introduced House Resolution 24 to impeach President Trump on a single article of impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors, alleging that he incited an insurrection against the United States government. Two days later, the House impeached President Trump by passing the resolution. The Senate received the resolution on January 25, 2021, after President Biden had been sworn in to the presidency.

The second impeachment trial of President Trump took place in the Senate from February 9-13, 2021. On February 13, 2021, the Senate voted on the single article of impeachment (PDF). Only 57 senators voted to convict, falling short of the two-thirds majority required to convict; thus, President Trump was adjudged not guilty by the Senate on the single article of impeachment.

One question debated during the second impeachment was whether it was constitutionally permissible to impeach a president after he had left office, otherwise known as a "late impeachment." On the first day of the trial (PDF) the Senate voted in the affirmative on the question "whether Donald John Trump is subject to the jurisdiction of a court of impeachment for acts committed while President of the United States, notwithstanding the expiration of his term in that office" (117 S. Res. 47). Researchers interested in recent commentary on the constitutionality of "late impeachments" are directed to secondary sources, particularly scholarly law journal articles and legal "blawg" posts External.

First Impeachment (2019-2020)

Second Impeachment (2021)