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Here's what happens with Trump's impeachment after he leaves office

Trump could still face the consequences of inciting a violent attack on the Capitol, if the Senate votes to convict him.

By Amy Lieu - January 11, 2021
Donald Trump

House Democrats on Monday swiftly moved to impeach Donald Trump for “incitement of insurrection” following a violent rampage at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday that left five people dead.

The House Judiciary Committee’s key Democratic members Rep. Ted Lieu (CA), David Cicilline (RI), and Jamie Raskin (MD) co-authored the impeachment article along with the committee staff, Lieu tweeted alongside a copy of the resolution.

“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and is institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government,” the article noted.

It stated that Trump had encouraged “lawless action” with repeated false claims he won the election and statements such as the ones he made just before the Capitol insurrection, when he said the country would not be taken back with “weakness.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said separately on Monday that she would bring the legislation to the floor if Vice President Mike Pence did not respond to calls for him to remove Trump using the 25th Amendment. “As our next step, we will move forward with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor,” she said. “The President’s threat to America is urgent, and so too will be our action.”

The impeachment article has 210 House co-sponsors so far, Politico noted.

Timing is key here if Democrats are seeking to formally remove Trump from office. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters on Monday that he wanted to immediately send the impeachment article to the Senate once the House vote was complete, without delay. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, released a memo outlining how the schedule for Trump’s impeachment would look moving forward, noting that the Senate doesn’t reconvene for full legislative business until Jan. 19.

Trump is set to leave the White House on Jan. 20.

“It would require the consent of all 100 Senators to conduct any business of any kind during the scheduled pro forma sessions prior to January 19, and therefore the consent of all 100 Senators to begin acting on any articles of impeachment during those sessions,” McConnell said.

So what happens if Trump is indeed impeached, but leaves before he can be removed from office?

If, say, the Senate receives the impeachment article on Jan. 19, then on that day or Jan. 20, the appointed House impeachment managers would present the article, and the chamber would begin to consider it on Jan. 20 or 21.

That means the impeachment trial would “begin after President Trump’s term has expired — either one hour after its expiration on January 20, or twenty-five hours after its expiration on January 21,” the Senate majority leader’s memo said.

Still, that doesn’t mean a Senate trial isn’t worth pursuing, if Democrats seek to punish Trump for his role inciting last week’s Capitol attack.

University North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor Michael Gerhardt told NBC News, “Once an impeachment begins in the House, it may continue to a Senate trial. I don’t see any constitutional problem with the Senate acting fast or slowly.”

If Trump is convicted, even after leaving office, he would lose benefits otherwise granted to him under the 1958 Former Presidents Act, including a life-long pension that pays him more than $200,000 a year, a government-paid staff, “suitable office space,” and health insurance, CNN and Mother Jones noted.

An additional simple majority vote could permanently disqualify Trump from running for office again in the future, as reports have indicated he may do in 2024.

Of course, all of this relies on a successful Senate vote, which doesn’t appear likely to happen.

Democrats would need a two-thirds majority to convict Trump, which means that at least 17 Republicans need to vote in favor of the effort. As of Monday, only three Republican senators had signified they may vote to convict.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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