1. What would be the point, then?
Some Democrats say Trump must be impeached to hold him accountable for his role encouraging his supporters who participated in the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. More tangibly, Trump has made noises about running for the presidency again in 2024, a prospect that alarms many Democrats and complicates the ambitions of other Republicans who envision themselves in the Oval Office. Should he be impeached (again) by the House, and convicted (this time) by the required two-thirds supermajority in the Senate, senators could also vote to disqualify him from serving in future federal office, which would take only a simple majority. (Article 1 of the Constitution says impeachment judgments can include “disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.”)
2. Has disqualification ever happened?
The House has initiated impeachment proceedings more than 60 times, according to its historian’s office, and voted to impeach 20 individuals -- 15 federal judges, one senator, one cabinet secretary and three presidents (Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Trump in 2019). Of that group, eight judges were convicted and removed from office by the Senate. Three of the judges were also disqualified from holding office again. The last instance was in 2010, involving Thomas Porteous, a federal judge in New Orleans who was accused of taking cash and bribes from lawyers and bail bondsmen with cases before his court, making false statements in declaring personal bankruptcy, and lying to the Senate during his confirmation.
3. What other repercussions would there be for Trump?
If impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, Trump could lose many of the benefits afforded to former presidents, which, under the Former Presidents Act of 1958, include a lifetime pension, an annual travel budget and funding for an office and staff. Under that law, such perks are withheld from any president removed through the impeachment process (though he would still be entitled to Secret Service protection.) Whether a post-presidency conviction, such as Trump potentially faces, constitutes “removal” might be a question for the courts to decide. But experts point out that Congress could try to amend the law to make sure Trump loses his benefits.
4. Is there enough time left to impeach Trump?
There’s enough time for the House to pass one or more articles of impeachment -- formal written charges for consideration by the Senate -- but there’s little to no chance that the Senate would act by Jan. 20. Since the goal of many Democrats transcends removing Trump as president, however, acting quickly isn’t a necessity. In fact, it’s possible that House Democrats might delay sending any approved articles of impeachment to the Senate for a couple of months, so as not to interfere with the first 100 days or so of President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. No president has ever been convicted of impeachment, much less after leaving office, so the legality of a post-presidency impeachment conviction could be challenged, should it come to that.
5. What exactly is an impeachable offense?
Congress decides that. The U.S. Constitution says the president “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” As Congress has defined it through the years, the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” includes exceeding or abusing the powers of the presidency, or misusing the office for improper purpose or gain.
6. Does Congress have other options?
There’s been talk of deploying the 14th Amendment, enacted in the aftermath of the Civil War, to make Trump ineligible from running again. Section 3 of that amendment prohibits any government official who participated in or supported an insurrection against the U.S. from holding office in the future. Because a resolution citing the 14th Amendment wouldn’t seek to remove Trump from office, it may not require the same two-thirds Senate vote as an impeachment conviction, and it would sidestep a lengthy trial.
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