Call me old fashioned or naïve, but I think my job is to explain what the U.S. Constitution actually means, no matter who likes it or doesn’t. That led me to explain recently that under the Constitution as it was understood by the framers and as it still should be understood today, impeachment isn’t complete when the House of Representatives votes to impeach.

Constitutionally, impeachment becomes official when the House sends word of that impeachment to the Senate, triggering a Senate trial.

Impeachment was originally understood to take place when someone from the House formally impeached the president “at the bar of the Senate,” which meant a member of the House formally stated to the Senate that the president (or judge, or other officer) was impeached. That practice lasted from the late middle ages until 1912. Since then, the House has instead sent a written message to the Senate stating that the House “has impeached” the defendant, a message that triggers the trial procedures in the Senate.