Will Donald Trump be impeached again? What could happen if he becomes first president to be charged twice | US News
Donald Trump’s second impeachment could get rolling as soon as Monday, with House Democrats indicating they will introduce the relevant articles following the riots at the US Capitol.
While this will happen only nine days before the inauguration of Joe Biden, legal experts and legislators alike believe there is still time – and a point – to make the 45th president the first to be impeached twice.
But the clock is certainly ticking – fast enough to mean it would prove tough to squeeze in the Senate vote that would be needed to remove Mr Trump from office.
So what will happen if he is impeached for a second time? Sky News answers the key questions.
How does impeachment work?
Impeachment starts with a vote in the House of Representatives on the articles of impeachment – basically a list of charges against the president.
If the vote passes with a simple majority (50% + 1), then the president has been impeached and is then subject to a trial in the Senate.
After the trial, the Senate votes on whether to convict and remove the president from office.
This vote requires a two-thirds majority to strip the impeached of the presidency. Given the Republicans controlled the Senate at the time of Mr Trump’s first impeachment, he comfortably managed to stay in power.
What articles could he be impeached with?
The exact wording of the articles is not yet known, but members of the House of Representatives have been circulating copies that charge Mr Trump with “inciting violence against the government of the United States”.
This comes following the deadly riots at that took place at the Capitol in Washington DC on Wednesday following a speech by Mr Trump to his supporters.
His call to the Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger is also mentioned, in which the president asked the official to “find” more than 11,000 votes in order to overturn President-elect Biden’s victory in the state.
Why are Democrats impeaching him now?
There were calls for Mr Trump to be removed using the 25th amendment to the constitution, but this required the agreement of Vice President Mike Pence and the president’s cabinet – something which has not materialised.
This was done because many Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, considered Mr Trump’s actions so egregious that he needed to be removed immediately.
Impeachment is the next best option in their eyes.
Democrat representative Ilhan Omar says the process is important to set a precedent.
“It’s important to impeach & convict this president even if he has [a] few days left in office,” she tweeted.
“It will set a precedent. We must make it clear that no president can lead an insurrection against the US government.
“What we do today will matter for the rest of this nation’s history.”
Could Trump be stopped from running for president in 2024?
The Senate has the ability to bar people from running for office enshrined in the constitution.
Were senators to vote to remove someone from office, they can also vote to ban the impeached person from ever running for an elected post again. This vote only requires a 50% + 1 majority.
It has been used before in the cases of judges Robert Archbald and West H Humphreys – it is not only presidents who can be impeached.
But It is less certain what would happen if Mr Trump were convicted after he has already left office.
Paul Campos, law professor at the University of Colorado, thinks the Senate would be empowered to vote only on future disqualification.
He added that this scenario would be more likely if the president’s trial is still pending on 20 January, when he finishes his term and Joe Biden is inaugurated.
Can he pardon himself?
There has been a lot of talk about who Mr Trump has pardoned and who else he could pardon.
But impeachment is something he cannot absolve – not only is it not a criminal proceeding, but the constitution specifically prohibits it.
Will he keep Secret Service protection?
You are not likely to hear him say it, but Mr Trump has Barack Obama to thank for making sure he has Secret Service protection for the rest of his life.
Mr Trump’s predecessor in the Oval Office signed into law an amendment that ensures lifetime protection for all former leaders of the US.
It does not exclude former rulers for any reason, so it is safe to assume that Mr Trump will still get the protection provided by the US government should he want it.
Will he keep his benefits?
When a president leaves office, they are entitled to a range of benefits at the expense of the taxpayer – including a pension thought to be about $200,000 a year, an annual $1m travel stipend, and money for staff.
However, it is stated in the 1958 Former Presidents Act that these perks are not available for anyone removed from office after being impeached.
So whether Mr Trump is convicted and removed by the Senate – even after he leaves – could have substantial ramifications for him politically and financially.
Could he be prosecuted for his role in the US Capitol riots?
As impeachment is not a legal proceeding, there is no chance of double jeopardy – meaning Mr Trump could still be prosecuted for the same acts that saw him impeached.
The constitution states: “The Party convicted [of impeachment] shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”
Could he be convicted and removed even after leaving the White House?
These are uncharted waters, and not something explicitly spelled out in law or the constitution.
A Civil War era general called William Belknap, when serving as secretary of war, was impeached by the House even after he resigned from his cabinet post.
His case was sent to the Senate but he was acquitted, so there’s no precedent when it comes to conviction.
Michael J Gerhardt, professor of constitutional law at the University of North Carolina writes: “The special penalties upon conviction in impeachment are designed to protect the republic from the very type of people who have abused public office in such a grave manner that they should never have the opportunity to be entrusted with public power again.”
He adds: “It would make no sense for former officials, or ones who step down just in time, to escape that remedial mechanism.
“It should accordingly go without saying that if an impeachment begins when an individual is in office, the process may surely continue after they resign or otherwise depart.”
Will he be impeached and removed?
The congressional calculus will be uncertain until a vote is held, but it seems likely Mr Trump will be the first president to get impeached twice.
Democrats retained control of the House of Representatives in November, and some Republicans have said they are considering crossing the aisle to push the articles to the Senate in even greater numbers.
The Senate is a different matter,.
While Mr Trump is in office, his Republican party holds the majority.
But once Mr Biden takes his seat in the Oval Office, the Senate will pass into the control of the Democrats thanks to the dramatic wins in Georgia.
They only have the slimmest of majorities though, not enough to win an impeachment vote by themselves, and the number of Republicans willing to turn on Mr Trump is still an unknown quantity.
With a two-thirds majority needed, a lot of Republicans would need to change sides in order to convict the president.