The House impeached Trump again — here’s what that means.
Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/CNET
With President Joe Biden now installed in office, a central question left over from the Jan. 13 impeachment of former President Donald Trump is this: When will the Senate trial begin? The answer is complicated, but today it became a bit clearer. The House of Representatives will deliver the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday, Jan. 25, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday.
The article of impeachment for incitement of insurrection by Donald Trump will be delivered to the Senate on Monday, January 25. https://t.co/FSOWGACfgZ
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 22, 2021
The House’s bipartisan vote impeached Trump on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in encouraging the deadly riot at the US Capitol on Jan. 6. Once the article is delivered, the Senate will be compelled to hold a vote to convict or acquit Trump.
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The siege of the Capitol building sought to overturn the 2020 election results and halt the process of confirming Biden as the nation’s next president, a process widely seen as a formality. After the Capitol was cleared of rioters, the joint session of Congress did confirm Biden’s presidency.
“We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection — this armed rebellion — against our common country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Jan. 13 prior to the vote. “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
While Trump’s term ended Jan. 20, a conviction could potentially lead to other consequences. This is the first time in US history a president has been impeached twice.
“I don’t think anybody would seriously argue that we should establish a precedent where every president on the way out the door has two weeks or three weeks or four weeks to try to incite an armed insurrection against the union or organize a coup against the union,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, lead impeachment manager, said Jan. 17 on CNN State of the Union. “And if it succeeds, he becomes a dictator. And if it fails, he’d not be subject to impeachment or conviction because we want to just let bygones be bygones.”
Raskin added, “This was the most serious presidential crime in the history of the United States of America. The most dangerous crime by a president ever committed against the United States.”
We’ll explain what could happen now that Trump has been impeached, including the timeline for a Senate trial. This story has been updated with new information.
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When does the Senate start Trump’s impeachment trial?
It isn’t clear when the trial will happen, but the Senate will be obliged to try Trump, who is now a private citizen and no longer holds public office. Along with being the first president to ever be impeached twice, he will also be the first to be tried after leaving office.
“There will be a full trial,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted Friday. “There will be a fair trial.” If the former president is convicted in the Senate, there will be an additional vote “on barring him from running again,” Schumer has said.
A proposed timeline of the trial from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would see senators issue a summons to Trump on Jan. 28, giving him until Feb. 4 to answer the article of impeachment, and to submit his pretrial brief by Feb. 11. The House would have until Feb. 13 to submit its rebuttal pretrial brief. The Senate has yet to agree to this timeline, however.
The Senate returned to work Jan. 19, the day before Biden’s inauguration.
Are Senate Republicans in favor of the Trump indictment?
While the impeachment resolution had unanimous support among voting House Democrats, 10 House Republicans also voted for the article. As the Senate waits to receive the article of impeachment, speculation begins as to which Republican senators may vote to convict.
McConnell is reportedly leaning toward voting against Trump, believing the former president committed impeachable offenses, The New York Times reported.
“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said Jan. 19 in his sharpest rebuke of Trump yet, according to AP News. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”
McConnell, who holds sway over Senate Republicans, is said to privately want Trump purged from the GOP, but has not made his voting intentions public.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal told CNN he’s hopeful there will be enough votes from Republican senators because if they acquit Trump twice, “they will be judged harshly not only by history but I think by American voters.”
What happens if the Senate convicts Trump?
Now that the House has voted to impeach, the process moves to the Senate for a trial supervised by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Normally, the conviction of a president at such a trial would result in the president being immediately removed from office. With Trump’s term now over, the Senate can additionally vote to remove the right to run for a second presidential term or for “any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States,” according to the Constitution (Article 1, Section 3).
A president impeached in the Senate may also be disqualified from the benefits given to former presidents in the Post Presidents Act, including a pension and yearly travel allowance.
Despite reports, Trump did not use his presidential power to attempt to pardon himself, and did not resign. According to the US constitution, impeached presidents cannot be pardoned.
What has to happen to convict a president through impeachment
A president — or in this case, former president — along with other officers, can be impeached for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” according to Article 2, Section 4 of the US Constitution. To impeach, a simple majority of members of the House of Representatives needs to vote to indict. A trial is then heard in the Senate, where the US chief justice presides. A full two-thirds of the 100 senators must vote in favor of a conviction, or else the president is acquitted.
Impeaching a president is typically a lengthy process involving months of inquiries and investigations.
Here’s the short version of the general procedure:
- The House of Representatives votes on levying impeachment charges against Trump.
- Now that the article of impeachment has passed in the House, the Senate must hold a trial.
- The House prosecutes, and the Senate sits as jury. The Supreme Court’s chief justice presides.
- Trump has an opportunity to present a defense.
Wasn’t Trump already impeached for actions during his presidential term?
Yes. Trump was impeached in December 2019 by the House. However, the Republican-majority Senate acquitted him at the beginning of 2020 (with the process marked by a record number of tweets from Trump disparaging the impeachment effort).
His first impeachment involved articles accusing Trump of abusing power and obstructing Congress. On that occasion, the issue was Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, including a July 2019 phone call in which he appeared to be using US military aid as a bargaining chip to pressure Ukraine into investigating alleged ties between his political opponent Biden, Biden’s son Hunter and a Ukrainian gas company. The articles also charged Trump with interfering with a House inquiry into the Ukraine matter.
CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt and Rae Hodge contributed to this report.
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