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The unprecedented impeachment effort that Congressional Democrats are mounting against President Trump — as he enters his final 10 days in office — is one for the record books.
If the majority-Dem House succeeds in its impeachment vote, which could occur as soon as Wednesday, they’ll win the right to call Trump the only twice-impeached president in American history — and not much else, experts say.
The Constitution provides for only two potential punishments if an impeached president is convicted by the Senate: removal from office and disqualification from future “office of honor, trust or profit under the United States,” according to Article I, Section 3.
“An impeachment conviction that barred him from ever running again would be the least this democracy could do,” a Senate insider told The Post.
But even if the House convicts instantly, without performing any investigation or allowing any defense, the clock cuts against the possibility of conviction — because the Republican-led Senate will not act before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in at noon on Jan. 20.
“You can’t impeach non-sitting public officials,” said former NYU Law professor Peter Rajsingh. “Once he’s left office it’s a moot situation.”
Cornell Law professor William Jacobson agreed.
“Any such post-departure Senate trial would be a show trial for political purposes, not a legitimate constitutional trial,” he said.
While Trump was the third president to be impeached by the House but acquitted, no president has ever been removed from office by a Senate conviction — so legal scholars disagree on whether an ousted chief executive could lose his pension or Secret Service protection.
An argument can be made for such consequences, “but that assumes a proper conviction,” Jacobson said. “The language does not suggest that after leaving office, impeachment could be used to strip an ex-President of his pension and continuing benefits.”
Finally, some House Democrats contend — via a creative reading of the Constitution’s terms — that their vote would be enough to block Trump’s power to pardon the supporters who mobbed the Capitol this week, even if the Senate never convicts.
“This language does not end such power upon impeachment alone,” Jacobson argued. “So long as Donald Trump is President, under the Constitution he has the power to issue pardons.”
But it may be enough to prevent Trump from pardoning himself for making the statements that, Democrats say, sparked insurrection at the Capitol.
“I read it to mean the president cannot pardon his own conduct that gave rise to impeachment,” Jacobson said. “But that might have to be litigated.”
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