The Constitution provides, in express terms, that the President, as well as the Vice-President and all civil officers, may be impeached for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” It was framed by men who had learned to their sorrow the falsity of the English maxim, that “the king can do no wrong,” and established by the people, who meant to hold all their public servants, the highest and the lowest, to the strictest accountability. All were jealous of any “squinting towards monarchy,” and determined to allow to the chief magistrate no sort of regal immunity, but to secure his faithfulness and their own rights by holding him personally answerable for his misconduct, and to protect the government by making adequate provision for his removal. Moreover, they did not mean that the door should not be locked till after the horse had been stolen.
By the Constitution, the House of Representatives has “the sole power of impeachment,” and the Senate “the sole power to try all impeachments.” When the President of the United States is tried on impeachment, the Chief Justice is to preside. The concurrence of two thirds of the members present is necessary to convict. “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.” But judgment cannot “extend further than to removal and disqualification to hold and enjoy and office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.” Thus it is obvious that the founders of the government meant to secure it effectually against all official corruption and wrong, by providing for process to be initiated at the will of the popular branch, and furnishing an easy, safe, and sure method for the removal of all unworthy and unfaithful servants.