STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.— Is it possible that former President Donald Trump could be re-elected after being impeached twice?
Frankly, Yes. It is quite possible.
Being impeached — even when it happens an historic second time — is not the same as being convicted, removed from office and barred from ever running for office again.
Impeachment is the equivalent of an indictment, not a guilty verdict. The decision to convict Trump of insurrection for triggering the Dec. 6, 2020, riot at the U.S. Capitol will be made by a trial verdict of the Senate. And, if there is a conviction, the decision about holding future office will be made by the Senate in a separate, later vote.
“It would really take a conviction to keep him from running for federal office again,” said Brian Browne, assistant vice president of government relations and an adjunct professor of political science at St. John’s University. “In the absence of a conviction, he can still technically run for federal office again.”
On Tuesday, the Senate voted largely along party lines, 56 to 44, to proceed with the second impeachment trial of Trump, declaring that such a trial is indeed constitutional, despite the fact that Trump is now a private citizen. Opening arguments began on Wednesday.
The House of Representatives impeached trump on Jan. 13 on the single charge, “incitement of insurrection,” for allegedly instigating the deadly Jan. 6 riot.
Then-President Trump was impeached for the first time in December 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in relation to his dealings with Ukraine. The Senate voted to acquit Trump of those charges on Feb. 5, 2020.
Both this time around, and in the 2019 impeachment of Trump, the House, in its articles of impeachment, specified that Trump “warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.’’
But, in the end, the Senate can vote against that recommendation, even if Trump is convicted, said Browne. “It’s written in the Constitution,’’ he said.
For conviction, and removal from office, which Trump doesn’t have to worry about because he’s no longer president, a two-thirds majority vote, or “supermajority’’ in the Senate is required.
The Senate is currently equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. That would mean that 17 Republican senators would have to break ranks to convict him on the “incitement to insurrection” impeachment article. In the event of a 50-50 split at trial, Vice President Kamala Harris would act as a tie-breaking vote.
On Tuesday, only six Republicans joined with their Democratic colleagues in a vote that the current impeachment trial is constitutional and could proceed, despite the fact that Trump is no longer in office.
If Trump is convicted, the Senate then would vote on whether to disqualify him from ever holding national office again, requiring only a simple majority of 51 votes to pass.
“That would pretty much be a no-brainer, considering the way the Senate is aligned, and Kamala Harris could cast the tie-breaking vote,’’ Browne said. “But, before you get to that, you’d have to have a conviction, and that seems unlikely. It seems very unlikely to happen.”
In the nation’s history, only two presidents have been impeached — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton — but neither was removed from office. Both were later acquitted by the Senate.
Nixon resigned from office before the House could vote on his impeachment resolutions, but it is believed he would have been removed from office, because of his role in the Watergate scandal, had he not resigned.
And though Nixon’s articles of impeachment didn’t prohibit him from ever holding office again, that wasn’t the case with Clinton, whose resolution did just that.
Browne pointed to Johnson, who was impeached in the House but acquitted in the Senate, and later was elected to serve in the Senate after finishing his term as president of the United States. And Alcee Hastings, a current member of the House from Florida, was removed as a federal judge in 1989, but was later elected to serve in Congress, Browne said.
So, it can happen, Browne said:
“If he’s acquitted, which is likely, there’s nothing to stop him from running for federal office again.’’
— to www.silive.com