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Can a president be impeached after he leaves office, and what penalty would he face if convicted?

Donald Trump
Posted at 10:36 AM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-11 16:02:45-05

With only a matter of days left in his official term, the House of Representatives unveiled Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump. Since Trump will be leaving office soon, some may be wondering what would happen to the impeachment process on January 20, and could any conviction have any impact once he is no longer president.

Can a president be impeached after leaving office?

Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution states:

“The Constitution gives Congress the authority to impeach and remove the President, Vice President, and all federal civil officers for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Legal scholars are divided on whether that allows for former civil officers to be impeached after they leave office.

Although lawmakers have suggested in the past former presidents like Clinton or Obama be impeached for certain actions, no action has been taken by Congress and no court has ruled on the issue.

A definitive answer may not come until it happens and the issue is challenged in court.

If a former president is impeached and convicted by the Senate, could they run for office again?

If Congress moves forward with a second impeachment of President Trump, and the Senate votes to convict, very likely after January 20, what would that result in?

Again, looking to the Constitution, in Article I, Section 3, it states:

“Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.”

So, whether or not a civil officer is still in office, if they are found guilty by the Senate, they face losing their job and getting banned from future office.

Some lawmakers, when asked about why they are pursuing Articles of Impeachment, say if Trump is impeached and convicted, he could be barred from running for president again in 2024, or any other elected office in the future.

To disqualify Trump from running for future office, the decision only requires a simple majority of Senators to agree, according to Reuters. By comparison, two-thirds of the Senate is needed to convict and remove a president from office.

Because disqualification from running for future office remains a potential penalty, some legal scholars believe an impeachment trial can be brought against former civil officers.

Other than being removed from office, what else could a former president lose if impeached and convicted by the Senate?

The 1958 Former Presidents Act provides post-office benefits to former presidents; these currently include a $200,000/year pension, health insurance, a yearly travel budget, and a full security detail, all at the taxpayer’s expense.

If a president is impeached and convicted, there are many that believe this would disqualify him from receiving these benefits even if he is no longer in office when the conviction happens.

However, again, this is not specifically spelled out in the Impeachment process or in the Constitution, and there have not been any court rulings on this specific question.

If President Trump is impeached by the House, but the Senate does not vote to convict, he could maintain these benefits.

Bottom line, there are several questions about President Trump’s potential second impeachment that are not clearly answered by either the Constitution or precedence. Until they happen, and possibly challenged in the courts, they will remain unclear.