The house of representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time on Wednesday, 13 January, marking the fourth impeachment of a US president in history. Trump also became the first president to be impeached by the house twice.
The house voted to impeach Trump 232-197, a week after Trump rallied with a large group of supporters who ultimately rioted and sieged the Capitol. The incident left at least five dead and forced congress to evacuate the chambers and take shelter in the middle of the hearing.
Many people, understandably, have questions about what it all means for President Trump’s political future.
Although impeachment was used three times in the past to remove a sitting elected official, it can also be used against former federal officials, resulting in severe punishments that could affect their futures, according to the constitution.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, in theory, gives congress the authority to bar public officials, who took an oath of allegiance to the US constitution, from holding office if they ‘engaged in insurrection or rebellion’ against the constitution and therefore broke their oath. The article of impeachment filed by the democrats cites this provision.
But an impeachment by congress alone does not prevent President Trump from running for public office again. The senate would have to conduct an impeachment trial and first convict the president on an article of impeachment.
The president has indicated that he would run for office again in 2024, however, an impeachment and conviction vote by two-thirds of the senate would open him up to a congressional ban on running for federal office. That punishment only requires a simple majority vote in the senate.
Another question being raised is if the senate moves to try and convict the president, what happens to his benefits?
His pension stays intact unless he is actually convicted and removed from office by the senate. But congress could pass a new law to strip Trump of his post-presidency benefits, and it would not require the same two-thirds vote that a conviction in the senate would. Impeachment alone even the second in Trump’s one-term presidency wouldn’t disqualify Trump from receiving some benefits.
His future lifetime secret service protection is another topic up for debate.
If the house votes to impeach Trump, the senate would have to convict him while he’s still in office in order to revoke his lifetime pension and travel allowance. With only days until Biden takes over the white house, that prospect is unlikely, and Trump’s secret service detail would remain unaffected.
Constitutional lawyers are trying to define exactly who counts as a former president.
The Former presidents’ act makes it clear that the term ‘former president’ means a person who served as President of the United States of America, whose service in such office shall have terminated other than by removal pursuant to section four of article II of the constitution of the United States of America.
But another law of the former Presidents protection act authorizes lifetime secret service protection for former presidents, but the act does not define exactly who falls under ‘former president’.
This year, the Senate will be split 50-50 between the parties, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as the potential tiebreaker.
An impeachment conviction would require at least 17 republicans to vote across the aisle to get the two-thirds majority needed.
As of January 13, no senate republican has officially announced his or her support for impeachment, however, there were early rumblings that some party members think the president is culpable.
The President can be banned from holding office after a senate conviction. Additionally, congressional democrats are examining whether they can apply to Mr Trump an 1868 14th-Amendment provision, aimed at Confederate officeholders, that bans those who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion from holding office again without a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress.