What is impeachment and how does it work?

Last updated at 15:19
US President Donald Trump.Getty Images

US President Donald Trump has found himself at the centre of an important news story at the moment.

Two former members of his team are in trouble for breaking the law, including Mr Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen.

Mr Cohen has turned against his old boss and accused him of breaking laws about how money is used during elections.

The US president has said that Mr Cohen is making up "stories".

Michael Cohen leaving court.Reuters
Mr Cohen told the court that Mr Trump asked him to pay money to people to stop them from talking to the media in order to help Mr Trump to win the US election

These new allegations has raised questions about the future of Mr Trump's presidency and whether he could be impeached.

But what does this mean - and is it really a possibility for President Trump?

What is impeachment?

Impeachment proceedings are a rare event in the US and are a final check on the president's power.

The United States Congress - the part of the US government that writes and brings in laws - can put certain senior American officials like the president on trial.

The American Constitution, which is basically a rulebook for US citizens, states the president can be impeached and removed from office for a number of offences.

These include "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours".

How does impeachment work?
The Capitol.Reuters
The Senate and the House of Representatives - which together make Congress - are based in the US Capitol building in Washington DC

The process of impeachment has to be started by the House of Representatives, which is one half of the US Congress, and only needs a simple majority to pass.

If this happens, the trial will then be held in the Senate - the second half of Congress.

This is a bit like a courtroom, where senators will act like a jury to decide whether or not a president is guilty.

Here two-thirds of senators must vote in favour of impeaching the president in order to remove him or her from the job.

Has it been done before?
Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson.PA/Getty Images
The only two US presidents to have been impeached in history are Bill Clinton (left) and Andrew Johnson (right), but neither were convicted and removed from office

The last US president to be impeached - when the House of Representatives voted in favour of the process - was Bill Clinton in 1998.

It also happened in 1868 to Andrew Johnson, but neither Mr Clinton or Mr Johnson were convicted by the Senate.

So, impeachment does not automatically mean that a president will be removed from the job.

Up until now, no US president has been removed from office as a result of impeachment.

Richard Nixon
Many people believe that Mr Nixon would have been impeached and sacked from his job if he hadn't resigned

The one who probably came closest was Richard Nixon.

But he quit as president of the United States in 1974 before impeachment proceedings could begin, and would have most likely removed him from office.

Is Donald Trump going to be impeached?
Mr Trump speaking to the media.AFP/Getty Images
Mr Trump has accused his former lawyer of making up "stories"

Right now, it is unlikely.

Donald Trump's political party - the Republicans - have more people in the House of Representatives and in the Senate than their rivals, the Democrats.

So lots of Republicans - to be specific, 25 members of the House of Representatives and 17 senators - would have to vote against their leader for the process to go ahead and for him to be impeached (and that's only if everyone who isn't Republican voted in favour of it too).

However, important votes are coming up in the US called mid-terms, which could affect this.

US Capitol building in Washington DCGetty Images

In November, people in the US will have a chance to vote for who represents them in Congress. All 435 seats of the House of Representatives are up for grabs, while 35 seats out of the 100 seats in the Senate will be decided.

Depending on the outcome of these mid-terms, the Republicans could - in theory - lose their majority in the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate too.

If they do then the Democrats could find they have enough people to carry out the impeachment process, if they wanted to.

What would happen if Donald Trump is removed from office?

If Mr Trump were to be successfully impeached, his vice-president Mike Pence would take the oath of office and become the next US president.