1. Why is it a big deal that Trump was impeached again?
- Impeachment is a declaration from the House of Representatives that Trump’s actions are unacceptable and must have consequences. It is similar to a prosecutor charging someone with a criminal offense.
- The charge behind his impeachment is Incitement to Insurrection relating to the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.
The New York Times. Trump Impeachment
U.S. Congress. 117th Congress (2021-2022). H.Res.24 – Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.
2. Does this impeachment affect Trump’s presidential powers now? Are there any restrictions on him?
- Possibly. The constitution says the president has, “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” Legal scholars have interpreted this to mean he can’t pardon himself or anyone else related to this charge of impeachment.
- It may also make some actions politically more difficult.
The Washington Post. January 13, 2021. No, Trump can’t pardon himself or other insurrectionists. Impeachment would strip him of that power.
Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School. U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 2.
3. The Senate still needs to convict, right?
- Yes, the Senate will hold an impeachment trial.
- The House Impeachment managers act as the prosecution. Trump’s lawyers act as the defense, and the Senators act as the Jury. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court acts as the judge. The judge runs the trial – he does not determine guilt or innocence.
- Two thirds of the Senators must vote guilty in order to convict him. That means 67 Senators must vote to convict.
- The most important difference between a court trial and an impeachment trial is that impeachments have different rules of evidence and proof.
United States Senate. Powers & Procedures. The Senate’s Impeachment Role.
Reuters. December 17, 2019. Explainer: How Trump’s impeachment trial would differ from a criminal one.
4. Will Trump be removed from office early?
- Probably not.
- The trial will begin after Biden is inaugurated.
- The Senate is in recess until January 19th. Mitch McConnell, the current Senate Majority Leader said he will not bring it back early. His reasoning was that a fair trial could not conclude before President-elect Biden would be sworn in.
Mitch McConnell Senate Majority Leader’s Office. McConnell Statement on Senate Schedule.
5. How would an impeachment conviction affect Trump – especially if he is already out of office?
- Removal from office is usually the primary threat, but irrelevant in this case.
- Future office:
- If he’s already out of office, the Senate can vote to prevent him from holding any future office. He could not run for president in 2024.
- It would take a simple majority (51 senators) to pass that vote.
- Criminal charges:
- Trump – or others – could also be subject to criminal charges, if there is evidence they committed crimes.
- The Former Presidents Act of 1958 makes certain benefits available for all former presidents. They include a pension, staff, security, office space and travel expenses. Because no president has ever been convicted in the Senate before, the specifics of what he would still be entitled to even after conviction, are unclear.
- If Trump is convicted by the Senate, the Constitution allows for Congress to hold a simple majority vote to prevent him from holding any future office of the US government.
National Archives. (3 U.S.C. 102 note) Former Presidents Act
United States Congress. Public Law 112-257-Jan. 10, 2013. H.R. 6620. Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 18 USC 1 note
6. Why have a trial if he’s already out of office?
- Formal censure – tells posterity that Incitement to Insurrection is inexcusable is not ok for history.
- The senate trial would include an investigation, witnesses, documents, and potentially subpoenas of other kinds of data and evidence.
- It will create a formal and complete record of what happened and who was involved.
- It could also resolve questions of whether people within the Capitol Police, Congress or others may have been involved.
CBS News. January 13, 2021. Federal prosecutors investigate possible seditious conspiracy charges in Capitol assault.
Vox. The second impeachment of Donald Trump, explained.
The New York Times. Why Remove Trump Now? A Guide to the Second Impeachment of a President.