A Brief History
On February 22, 2014, the Ukrainian Rada, their unicameral version of a legislative body, voted to impeach President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine, removing him from office. In 2021, the American Congress is preparing to impeach President Donald Trump (as of January 11, 2021) in a history making second effort to oust the President. While previous Presidents Andrew Johnson and William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton were both impeached, and in turn not convicted by the Senate and thus not removed from office, Trump was impeached in 2019, and like his predecessors on the hot seat, he was not convicted by the Senate. (By the time this article is posted, perhaps we will have more information as to whether or not President Trump is actually tried by the Senate for a second time, and the potential results of that trial.) Note: We now know President Trump was acquitted by his trial in the Senate.
In the case of President Yanukovych, the unfortunate politician had previously served as the Prime Minister of the Ukraine off and on from 2002 to 2007, ascending to the presidency in February of 2010, serving until his ouster in February of 2014. The Ukrainian version of a single hose Parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada or Rada for short, voted 328 to 119 for his removal from office. The reason for his removal was in response to a popular political movement called the “Euromaiden” movement and was due to allegations of Yanukovych allegedly engaging in cronyism, corruption, being a puppet of Russian interests and un-democratic actions, such as vote rigging and suppression of opposition politicians and parties. Almost as if to confirm the allegations against him, Yanukovych was spirited out of the Ukraine for exile in Russia by the Russian commandos known as Spetsnaz. Not a stranger to criminal activity, Yanukovych actually was convicted of robbery and assault as a 17 year old and served 3 years in jail! Apparently not learning his lesson, the beleaguered Yanukovych was again convicted of assault in 1970 and later charged with other crimes such as fraud. One must wonder, How did he ever get elected as President?
Some other countries get rid of underperforming leaders by simply voting them out without the aspect of a trial by the legislature or parliament or by actually conducting a trial in the legislature, usually in parliamentary type governments such as that found in Britain, while in Italy the President can be impeached in a manner similar to that process in the United States. Italy has seen attempts to impeach 3 of their presidents, without actually reaching the threshold of formal impeachment. Some other European countries that have an impeachment process include France, Russia, Germany, and Ireland among several others. Brazil, South Korea, India, and the Philippines also have an impeachment process to remove the nation’s president. In 2016, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil was removed and replaced by the impeachment process, and the Philippines impeached President Joseph Estrada in 2000, though without the requisite votes for removal from office. Other national presidents removed via impeachment include Park Geun-hye, President of South Korea, removed from office in 2016, while another South Korean president was impeached unsuccessfully in 2004 when the Supreme Court of South Korea overturned his conviction.
Many nations and also the various States of the United States of America also have an impeachment process to remove various government officials and judges. In fact, in the United States, a cabinet secretary, a senator and 15 Federal judges have been impeached, including Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, Samuel Chase, who was acquitted by the Senate in 1804. (Appointed to the Supreme Court by President George Washington, Chase was a signer of the American Declaration of Independence!) Additionally, 8 US Governors of States have been evicted from office through the impeachment process.
The President of the United States is obviously not the only government official subject to impeachment, and the high standard of a 2/3 majority of the Senate needed for conviction and removal from office makes it likely only the most egregious offenses by a sitting President would result in conviction.
Question for students (and subscribers): What US President, if any, do you think should have been removed via impeachment and why? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Larson, Carlton. On Treason: A Citizen’s Guide to the Law. Ecco, 2020.
Sunstein, Cass. Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide. Penguin Books, 2019.
The featured image in this article, a State Department photograph of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton being greeted by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 2, 2010, is a work of a United States Department of State employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain per 17 U.S.C. § 101 and § 105 and the Department Copyright Information.