A presidential hypothetical: re-election after impeachment

Imagine that Trump gets impeached and then ousted. Imagine further that he stands in 2020 and gets elected. Can Congress re-impeach him? Would the Supreme Court intervene? What would be the consequences of his re-election? Would those who convicted him have to stand down?

Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution states that “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…"

Does a successful impeachment mandate disqualification or is it optional?

It is optional.

As a factual matter: of course no President has ever been impeached and removed from office, but lots of lower-ranking judges and politicians have. Is it usual that the disqualification part gets thrown in?

Optional. Many have been convicted without disqualification. Just ask Alcee Hastings.

To wit, Alcee Hastings was a Federal judge who was impeached for corruption. The conviction did not include his disqualification for future Federal office, and he has gone on to be a member of the House of Representatives since 1993.

ETA: damn you!

Yes. It’s important to understand that impeachment is a political process, not a criminal process, so that double jeopardy doesn’t apply. Also, new articles of impeachment could be formulated on different grounds.

Can a president be impeached more than once?

The House has sole authority to impeach, and the Senate sole authority to convict. The Courts have no role in impeachment.

It would make it politically more difficult to impeach/convict if he was demonstrated to have that level of support.

No. Why should they?

I imagine if it came to the point where the Senate actually removed a sitting President from office they also disqualify him from holding future office.

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I suppose this system made sense at the time. :slight_smile:

Since impeachment is a political rather than legal process, would double jeopardy apply? I am guessing not - no one is being put in danger of loss of life or property. So maybe they could impeach the President for exactly the same thing again.

It would present practical difficulties, of course. If the electorate communicated that they didn’t care about the grounds under which the President was impeached by re-electing him or her, it would be political suicide to impeach him or her again for the same grounds.


I hope you don’t mind if I piggyback on this. Suppose that Congress did impeach a sitting President, and did disqualify him from holding office.

Suppose then that the President ran for re-election and was re-elected.

Who has standing to attempt to enforce the impeachment’s sentence? When would the issue be ripe? Would a court hear the case, or would it be considered a nonjusticiable political question? I have a hazy recollection of the Adam Clayton Powell case being on point, but I have no idea if the reasoning would extend.

There is a joint session of Congress that meets to certify the electoral vote.

So Congress would have to object to any state that attempted to cast its votes for a President who wasn’t eligible, then recess, “All in favor of rejecting the vote say Aye”, everyone says Aye, re-convene and reject the state’s votes, lather, rinse, repeat.


For one thing, a candidate for president has to get on the ballot in enough states to actually get re-elected. In every state, his opponents for election would point out that he does not meet the qualifications for ballot access, given that he is ineligible to be elected.

What about it wouldn’t make sense now?

The problem is that the American political system doesn’t include a “no confidence” mechanism. The president is not tasked with carrying out the executive function because they have the support of the legislative branch. They are an independently elected official, and hold most of the executive powers that in the UK are the prerogative of the monarchy. Of course in the modern UK all those executive functions are carried out by the Prime Minister in the name of the Queen.

The PM can be sacked at pretty much any time and for pretty much any reason by Parliament. But the Monarch can’t be. Yes, Monarchs can be deposed from time to time, but in the general course of things they should not be. Deposing the Monarch is an extra-ordinary action. And since the original conception of the US Presidency is as an elected Monarch, same thing with the Presidency.

As for why an impeachment might or might not bar future office-holding, well, the primary purpose is to remove a person from their position of authority. Impeachment of the President gets talked about a lot, but impeachment of judges actually happens from time to time. And the primary purpose is to remove the person from the position. Whether their actions are egregious enough to bar any further office holding is another story. If we remove Judge Smith because he violated some ethics deal, and the voters of the state of Pennsyltucky decide to send him to the Senate anyway, that’s on them.

Note that the House and Senate can expel their own members: “Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member” This has only happened a handful of times. In the case of the Civil War they didn’t expel the southern delegations, those guys walked out on the grounds that they weren’t part of the United States any more. It would be kind of silly to secede from the United States and then demand to be part of the US government. But actually some southern congressmen did reject secession and insisted that they were still part of the United States, and those people were not expelled.

Sure they did: https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Ten_Senators_Expelled.htm

And note that the last 3 Senators who had an expulsion vote scheduled resigned before the vote took place.

Aside from the hassle of the whole process, it would seem that Congress would then get to choose the next President, on the basis of no candidate getting a majority of the electoral vote (seeing as how so many votes would likely be thrown out in this scenario).

I would think that Congress would rather like the power of choosing the next President, and not dealing with an impeached and convicted former President.

Huh. I was mistaken. I always thought they all resigned first.

In theory, Congress could impeach, convict, and disqualify from future office the President, but not remove from the current position. But very strange to do that.