Friday, January 15, 2021

What impeachment could mean for Donald Trump and his chances of a comeback  

What impeachment could mean for Donald Trump and his chances of a comeback  

Democrats in the House of Representatives have introduced a resolution containing a single article of impeachment against Donald Trump, charging him with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the attack on the US Capitol last week.

It sets in motion a course that will likely result in a second impeachment for Mr Trump, making him the first ever US president to be impeached twice. 

Impeachment is a mechanism by which Congress can remove a sitting president. Before Donald Trump, only two US presidents had been impeached.

Democrats are demanding that the president is removed from office after he incited a violent mob to attack the US Capitol on Jan 6.

The resolution noted that Mr Trump addressed a rally shortly before his supporters mounted the attack and says he made statements that “encouraged and foreseeably resulted in” the lawless actions at the Capitol.

As he addressed his supporters on January 6, Mr Trump told the crowd to march on Congress and “fight like hell” in his attempt to overturn his election defeat to Joe Biden.

Mr Trump was impeached in 2020 over claims he abused his power by holding back aid to Ukraine in the hope that its leader would investigate Joe Biden, his political rival. He was impeached by the House of Representatives but acquitted by the Senate.

The US Democrats could delay an impeachment trial until after Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office, a top official said, freeing up the incoming president to pursue his early agenda. 

James Clyburn, House Majority Whip, said that the House would take up articles of impeachment against Mr Trump this week, but that they would likely not send them to the Senate for several months.

Here is how impeachment works.

What is impeachment?

Impeachment is the process by which Congress puts certain officials, namely the president, on trial.  

The US constitution lays out a broad scope of offences that can lead to impeachment: “Treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” 

What would it mean for Donald Trump?

If the 45th President is successfully impeached, he could be barred from ever running for, or holding, public office again. This would end any possible talk of a comeback run in 2024.

The US Senate has the power to prevent Mr Trump from doing so, and a vote on this would only need to be passed by a simple majority. There is precedent for the Senate preventing public officials from seeking office again after impeachment. Judges Robert Archbald (in 1913) and West H Humphreys (in 1862) were both been banned from seeking office after impeachment, although this fate has never befallen a President before.

A vote on this could only take place after an impeachment vote.

Outside of this, if Mr Trump were to be impeached, he would also lose access to a raft of public benefits he would otherwise be entitled to.

According to the 1958 Former Presidents Act, he would be denied his $200,000 annual pension, a $1 million annual travel stipend and extra funding for his future staff. However, thanks to an order signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, Mr Trump will still be guaranteed his lifelong secret service detail.

Were Mr Trump attempt to pardon himself before leaving office, something that no president has attempted before, the situation would become significantly more murky.

How does it work and how many votes are needed?

Impeachment does not mean a president will necessarily be kicked out of office. It proceeds like a bill passing through legislature.

First, a majority in the House of Representatives – 218 out of 435 members – must approve articles of impeachment previously approved in committee.

The Democrats hold a majority in the House of Representatives; 233 to 195 (five seats are vacant and one is independent).

When Mr Trump was impeached in 2020, the articles of impeachment easily passed in the House.

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