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grip on power

Timeline: Is there time to impeach Trump and could he be banned from running in the future?

Joe Biden will be inaugurated as his successor next week.

ny-pro-trump-riot-in-washington-dc The Capitol building on 6 January during the attack by Trump supporters. PA Images PA Images

LAST NIGHT IT was confirmed that US President Donald Trump is to face impeachment for the second time in his presidency. 

Democrats have moved quickly to to draft the articles of impeachment, charging Trump with incitement of insurrection after last week’s deadly mob attack on the US Capitol. 

The move comes in the dying days of the Trump presidency, with Joe Biden set to be inaugurated next week, and may not even removing him from office before he’s succeeded anyway.

It may however block Trump from holding office again, a possibility that may be attractive to both Democrats and Republicans.

So with one week left of President Trump, what is the timeline for this impeachment?

Today, 12 January

Last night’s move by Democrats to introduce impeachment charges effectively came with a final warning to leading Republicans that there was a day before the trigger was pulled on impeachment. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has urged Vice President Mike Pence to remove Trump via the 25th amendment, rendering impeachment unnecessary. Such a move would also require the approval of a majority of Trump’s Cabinet but Pence has not voiced much support for this route

If Pence declines to use the 25th Amendment, the Democrats will move forward with their impeachment plans. 

13 January

Democrats are likely to table an impeachment vote in the House of Representatives tomorrow. 

Usually impeachment votes come about after investigations by designated committees but the allegations against Trump in this case are based on the statements he made in public. 

The passing of articles of impeachment require a simple majority in the House. Democrats currently hold 222 seats out of 435 so they would require almost unanimous support from party representatives. 

Given that a reported 210 Democrats had voiced support as of Monday, it is likely to reach that majority threshold. Pelosi would also hope for some support from some Republicans representatives too. 

18-22 January

congress-electoral-college Mitch McConnell (L) and Mitch McConnell (R) in the Senate. PA Images PA Images

Once articles of impeachment are passed in the House of Representatives, they must then be sent to the Senate where a trial takes place. 

The chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial and the 100-member Senate then votes on the charges. A two-thirds majority is necessary to convict and remove a president.

The articles need not be sent immediately however, and during Trump’s last impeachment Pelosi waited a month to appoint impeachment managers and send over the articles of impeachment. 

This is therefore where the timeline becomes somewhat unclear, because the Senate needs to be sitting to receive the articles of impeachment.

The Senate isn’t due to sit again until 19 January, one day before Biden’s inauguration, and even at the point Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would not need to proceed immediately with a trial. 

The Washington Post reports that there is “an obscure power” that would allow the Senate to return before 19 January an emergency. Both McConnell and Democratic Minority leader Chuck Schumer would have to agree to this, however. 

This obviously gives McConnell significant power to decide if this is possible. McConnell had previously argued that the Senate would have to unanimously agree to return early but this does not appear to be the case. 

One more factor to consider is that Democrats will soon have control of the Senate when the recently elected Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia take up their seats. 

The pair have not yet taken up their seats and the certification deadline for these victories is 22 January. 

It is therefore possible that Pelosi may wait until this happens and Schumer is elected majority leader to send the articles of impeachment over. 

Indeed, because such a trial in the Senate would put all other business on hold, some Democrats have even argued that Biden could be given 100 days in office before proceeding with Trump’s trial. 

Beyond January

dc-dc-president-trump-at-cpac-2020 Donald Trump at the CPAC conference in February of 2020. PA Images PA Images

Barring the unlikely event that the Senate comes back early, it is therefore clear that Trump cannot be removed from office before Biden is sworn in anyway. 

This therefore begs the question as to why proceed with his impeachment at all. One of the major arguments is that Senators could also potentially bar Trump from holding public office again. 

Under the US constitution, people removed from office by the Senate can also be disqualified from holding “any office of honour, trust or profit under the United States.”

Such a sanction could be imposed if the office holder, in this case Trump, is convicted in the Senate. This may even be appealing for Republicans who would seek to stop another Trump run at the presidency in 2024, but it would still require a conviction in the Senate.

Alternatively, historians are also examining the provisions of the 14th amendment which would prevent anyone who engaged in has “engaged insurrection or rebellion” from holding senior office. 

The provision was first added to the US Constitution after the Civil War and has never been used, but it’s argued that these are the exact circumstances where it could be useful.

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