This week, President Trump could become the first president in United States history to be impeached twice after House Democrats on Monday filed impeachment charges against him for the second time in a little more than a year.
The article of impeachment accuses Trump of engaging in “high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the government of the United States.” The article cites the false claims of voter fraud Trump pushed for weeks and singles out specific comments he made at a rally before a mob of his supporters violently broke into the Capitol building as lawmakers were confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. The siege left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer, and forced lawmakers to shelter in place for hours.
The article charges that Trump’s speech in Washington, D.C., to thousands of his supporters in which he said “if you don’t fight like hell, we’re not going to have a country anymore” “encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol.”
The impeachment legislation also mentions Trump’s Jan. 2 call with Georgia’s secretary of state in which he urges the official to “find” enough votes to overturn the election.
With all of these events, “Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its government,” the four-page bill reads.
Here’s what you need to know about the impeachment this time around, from how and when the votes are expected to take place, how it’s different from Trump’s 2019 impeachment, to what benefits he might still get as a former president even if he’s convicted by the Senate.
How will the process work?
Democrats formally introduced the impeachment article on Monday. At the same time, they are trying another avenue of removing Trump from office by calling on Vice President Mike Pence and the president’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment. That resolution, which was blocked in a pro-forma session on Monday, is expected to pass when the full House votes on Tuesday.
After passage of the nonbinding resolution, Pelosi has said she will give Pence 24 hours to act, and if he doesn’t, Democrats say they will bring the impeachment article to the House floor. A senior administration official said in a Monday night statement after Trump and Pence spoke for the first time since the Jan. 6 riot that the two pledged to continue to work for “the remainder of their term,” suggesting Pence would not try to invoke the 25th Amendment.
The House is expected to vote on the article on Wednesday. It will require a simple majority of members to pass, and Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline, one of the members who drafted the bill, said “we now have the votes to impeach” in a tweet Monday.
The bill then moves to the Senate, where a trial will be held to decide whether Trump should be convicted. Conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds majority to vote in favor.
How long will it take?
While the House is expected to move quickly to vote on impeachment this week, the timeline in the Senate is not yet clear.
In a letter to Republican senators obtained by the Washington Post outlining how a possible impeachment trial would play out, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that the body won’t reconvene until Jan. 19, making that date the earliest an impeachment trial could begin. While the Senate is holding pro-forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday, it can’t do any businesses on those days, including acting on impeachment articles from the House, without consent of all 100 senators, according to the memo.
However, the Associated Press and others reported Monday that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is exploring holding an immediate Senate session after the article is passed in the House. An emergency session would require an agreement from McConnell, whose position on it is not known.
If the Senate doesn’t unanimously agree to reconvene for a vote before Jan. 19 and Senate leaders don’t agree to come back into session, McConnell’s memo outlined a timeline of impeachment that would begin after Trump has left office. On Jan. 19 or 20, the memo says, the House impeachment managers would exhibit the article and on Jan. 20 or 21, the Senate at 1 p.m. would begin the trial. Trump’s term ends on Jan. 20.
There is no precedent for impeaching or convicting a president after they have left office. But in 1876, a Cabinet official in Ulysses Grant’s administration, War Secretary William Belknap, was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later that resulted in his acquittal.
The timeline is also complicated by Democrats’ concerns a Senate trial could stall confirmation of Biden’s Cabinet and high-level appointees as he looks to act quickly to introduce legislation to confront the COVID-19 and economic crises facing the country. Biden on Monday said he has discussed with members of the House and Senate whether it was possible to split the time between confirming his Cabinet picks and holding the impeachment trial. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn has said that the House might wait until after Biden’s first 100 days to send the impeachment article to the Senate to give Biden time to get his agenda up and running.
How will it be different from his first impeachment trial?
With only a few days left in Trump’s presidency, the quick timeline of the House’s impeachment proceedings this time around is already starkly different to Trump’s first impeachment.
In December 2019, the House impeached Trump over charges that he abused the power of his office when he leaned on the Ukrainian president to announce an investigation into Biden. The House also approved a second charge that he obstructed Congress in its investigation. He was acquitted in the Senate in January 2020.
But the process took weeks and went through multiple committees. In 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an official impeachment inquiry in response to a whistleblower complaint that Trump pressed the Ukrainian president and withheld military aid. Six House committees then investigated the president, interviewed witnesses, and held hearings before the House Judiciary Committee voted to charge Trump with the two counts and held a full vote in the House.
Unlike the conduct that led to his first impeachment, the president’s conduct this time around occurred publicly. He made false claims of voter fraud on his Twitter feed for his more than 80 million followers to see, encouraged thousands of attendees at the Jan. 6 rally to “fight like hell,” and march to the Capitol building, where the violence was broadcast live. In 2019, the inquiry was sparked by a whistleblower complaint on a private phone call with a head of another country, and it required Congressional investigations to get a better picture of what happened.
If he is impeached and convicted, what does it mean for him?
The president could lose some perks if he’s impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate.
The Former Presidents Act allows for an ex-president to have an annual lifetime pension of about $200,000, an annual travel and security allowance, and funding for an office and staff. Under the law, those perks would be withheld from him if he’s impeached and convicted. But if Trump’s trial is held after his term ends and he is convicted by the Senate, it is not clear that would constitute “removal” from office.
It is not clear if Trump would lose Secret Service protection if he is removed from office.
The article of impeachment filed by House Democrats says 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.”
The Constitution gives the Senate the ability to disqualify a president from office through a separate vote if they are convicted, but it doesn’t specify whether that move requires a two-thirds majority. In other words, Trump wouldn’t lose his ability to run for office again even if he’s convicted, unless the Senate takes up a separate vote on the matter.
Material from the Globe’s wire services was used in this report.