Headlines around the world are trumpeting the possibility that President Trump will become the third president in US history to face impeachment. President Nixon and President Clinton were the first two to be impeached. The US House of Representatives is currently investigating whether the president’s conduct warrants moving forward with the impeachment process. It is a hefty responsibility and one that could last many months if not the better part of a year.
If the inquiry determines there is sufficient evidence supporting impeachment, they will introduce formal articles of impeachment that identify the specific crimes the president is alleged to have committed. Once introduced, the House of Representatives will debate the evidence and whether a trial is warranted. When the debate concludes, the representatives will vote on the matter. If a simple majority of 218 votes supporting impeachment is reached in the House, this will trigger a trial in the Senate. Current rules require the Senate to start the debate within 24 hours of the House vote. However, there are few set rules for how the trial will proceed and the Senate has broad discretion over many aspects of the trial.
During an impeachment trial, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will preside over the process. However, the Chief Justice does not issue a ruling. Rather, the 100 members of the Senate will debate the evidence and vote on whether to impeach and remove the president from office. In order to remove the president, they must achieve a two-thirds majority of 67 votes.
One of the most commonly asked questions is whether Trump could run for office again if he is impeached and removed from office. This is a gray area. Article I, Section 3, Clause 7 of the Constitution states:
“Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”
Thus, if the US Senate convicts President Trump of high crimes, misdemeanors, bribery, or treason, it is at the discretion of the Senate to determine whether to bar him from holding office in the future. There is no appeal of the Senate vote, and a vote to remove the president would be the first in US history. If President Trump is found guilty by the Senate and removed from office, Vice-President Pence would become president.