Impeachment

Can the House Impeach a Former President?

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Representative Matt Gaetz was widely mocked yesterday for suggesting during the impeachment hearing that "maybe it's a different president we should be impeaching," by which he meant the one who left office in January 2017. He soon clarified via Twitter that he did indeed mean to say the House can impeach former presidents.

I think he is probably right about that.

This is not an easy case, and there is not a scholarly consensus on this point, but it is plausible that it is within the authority of the House to impeach former federal officers.

Rather awkwardly, the framers separated the impeachment power into several different clauses sprinkled across the Constitution. Notably, the Constitution grants to the House of Representatives the "sole power of impeachment." It separately specifies that the president, vice president and other civil officers shall be removed if convicted upon an impeachment, and limits the Senate to doing no more than removing from office and disqualifying from future office when rendering a judgment in an impeachment trial.

In practice, disqualification from future office has rarely been an issue in federal impeachments. The House has rarely requested it. Only three officers, all judges, have been disqualified from future office by the Senate. Removing a problematic officer has often been treated as the sole purpose of the impeachment power, but I think that is a mistake. The impeachment power can and has served other purposes than just removing a sitting officer. If removal is the only purpose an impeachment can serve, then there would never be any point in the House voting to impeach when it knew the Senate would not convict. But sometimes it makes sense to impeach even when removal is not an available option.

When the framers entrusted the House with the power of impeachment, what did they think that power encompassed? They did not say very much about that. But the English parliamentary practice from which they were borrowing did not restrict impeachments to current officeholders. When the impeachment power was transplanted to American shores, it was explicitly shorn of some British features. Americans did not impeach private citizens. American legislatures were prohibited from imposing punishments other than removal and disqualification on those who had been convicted in impeachment trials. American legislatures were restricted to impeaching only for a limited type of offense.

But some state constitutions explicitly authorized their legislatures to impeach former officers, sometimes while imposing a time limit on how long the former officer was at risk of impeachment, and none prohibited it. The federal constitutional framers did not clearly rule it out, though they were aware that such applications were understood to be within the scope of a legislative power of impeachment.

If impeachments are a "grand inquest" into the conduct of public officials, then there is no necessary reason why that inquest should be cut off by an officer's departure from office. If impeachments are to deter public officers from gross misconduct, then leaving the door open to a legislature scrutinizing the conduct of former officers is potentially useful. If impeachments are to protect the republic from dangerous officeholders, then the ability to disqualify a former officer who has been demonstrated to have committed grave abuses of office in the past might be valuable.

One can imagine situations in which such a use of the impeachment power would be justifiable. In 1862, the Senate for the first time disqualified someone from future federal office when it convicted Judge West Humphreys on articles of impeachment that included the charge that he "did unlawfully act as judge of an illegally constituted tribunal within said State, called the district court of the Confederate States of America." If Humphreys had bothered to send in his resignation rather than simply neglecting his duties as a federal judge under the U.S. Constitution, the House might not have taken the time to impeach him. But it would have been understandable if Congress had determined that even if he had resigned that the secessionist Humphreys still needed to be barred from any future federal office of honor, trust, or profit.

In 1876, Secretary of War William Belknap resigned as the House was considering impeaching him for a newly revealed corruption scandal. The House impeached him anyway, and the Senate rejected a motion to dismiss the case for want of jurisdiction over a former federal officer. Belknap was not convicted, in part because some senators doubted their authority to do so. Condemning Belknap's actions and disqualifying him from future office seemed a sufficient reason to proceed for many in the House and Senate.

If Congress in 1974 had imagined the possibility of President Richard Nixon rehabilitating his reputation sufficiently to have a chance at holding a future office, it is not hard to imagine a bipartisan House and Senate steaming ahead with an impeachment and trial in order to bar that possibility through a judgment of disqualification. Worried that an infamous former officeholder might eventually live down his infamy, Congress might seek to make that recovery more difficult through the impeachment process.

The House practice manual accepts that the impeachment power extends to former officers, though it admits that since removal is generally the "primary objective" of an impeachment the proceedings have usually been brought to an end if the officer resigns. Brian Kalt has provided the most comprehensive analysis of "late impeachments," and I find him persuasive.

But this is also a good opportunity to reemphasize the importance of distinguishing what a government official or institution can do from what it should do. It is possible to abuse your discretionary authority. An act can be wrong and contrary to the health of the constitutional regime even if it is within a government official's lawful authority. An officer can be impeached for such an act. Members of Congress cannot be impeached, but they can certainly be condemned for such actions.

The House may have the constitutional authority to impeach a former president, but such acts are highly disfavored within our constitutional practice and the House would have an extraordinary argumentative burden to bear to justify such an action. It might be the case that the House should impeach a former officer so as to fortify constitutional norms and send a clear message to other officers that the behavior in question is unacceptable. But we should not want to go down the road of simply using the impeachment power to settle scores with the leaders of the other political party. It would quickly squander the solemnity and weight of the impeachment power while heightening partisan tensions and fostering greater animosity and distrust.

Representative Gaetz is probably right that the House could impeach a former president, but that does not mean the House should.

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  1. According to Robert Reich, a President who is impeached can’t be pardoned by future Presidents, so maybe impeaching a former President would, in this view, have the same effect.

    1. So, the explicit goal of one prominent leftist commentator of impeachment is to prevent a pardon, meaning Dems could go after Trump when he is out of office and we have President Rubio? Maybe they *are* playing the long game here.

      1. *not President Rubio, but Warren. Got that mixed up.

        1. They want to “lock up” their political opponents. But only the ones that make them really mad.

          1. Because it was Democrats who chanted “lock him up” about Trump during the 2016 campaign, or do I have that wrong?

            How many looking glasses have yo been through?

            1. That’s . . . why it’s so ironical. Like rain on your wedding day.

              1. It’s like ten thousand spoons …. when all you need is a knife

                1. Its conventional wisdom that her song does not include actual ironic things but I have never understood why not?

                  A person afraid of flying who dies on his first flight seems pretty ironic to me.

                  1. Not unless they were scared to death.

            2. Hilly committed actual crimes, that’s why she should be locked up.

              1. Traditionally, there’s a trial before you declare someone a criminal.

                It’s also weird Trump, who is so directive of the administration generally, hasn’t gone for it if it’s the slam dunk you think it is, though.

                1. A trial that never came because that disgusting animal had Holder/Lynch’s DOJ behind her.

                  1. And, presumably, she has enough dirt on Trump to keep his DOJ at bay?

                2. It’s actually not weird at all, since any President in the US today would probably blow 100% of their political capital if they were to focus on prosecuting the general election Presidential candidate they just defeated.

                3. So Al Capone didn’t have anyone killed or run a criminal empire, just cheated on his taxes?

                  I mean there wasn’t a trial for his activities as a mob boss so obviously he wasn’t.

                  1. No one disputes Al Capone. But also no one kidnapped him and threw him into jail just because it was undisputed. Even for him, there needed to be a trial before we locked him up.

                4. President Trump unavailable to comment

      2. “To prevent a pardon so they can go after him”.

        A few weeks back when discussing if a president could be indicted, I pointed out how it stops myriad prosecutors from trying to tie him up to hurt him politically, similar to stopping arrests of congressmen on the way to a vote. It was laughed at, but that’s exactly what’s happening in a number of states. They even quickly passed laws to work around it.

        And here is another guy on the left, Reich, who is arguing clear sailing to do exactly that, again.

        It took 20 years for the Republicans to get blowback on their fishing expedition into Bill Clinton.

        I hate to think of ths next incident after this, when the protections against the powerful using investigation to hurt an opponeng is even weaker. They even violated attorney-client privilege on the president, the exact kind of people it is designed to protect against such expiditions.

        “Yeah, but…!” But what? Next time it will be a Democrat, and they can waltz into the attorney’s office?

        The reason for these protections isn’t for the little guy. It’s to stop the ancient right of kings to filch unrestricted through an uppity lord’s papers.

        “Go ahead, Doctor Jones. Blow it up. We are just living through history. This [points to the Arc of the Constitution], this is history.”

        Indy backs down, realizing the heat of the moment, mere World War 2, is small and petty compared to the long game.

        But the Democrats launch.

        What’s.

        The.

        Matter.

        With.

        You.

        People?

        1. Who violated A/C priv?

          Also, no one is exactly lining up behind Reich.

          So maybe the real question is what’s wrong with you, to so eagerly adopt theories wherein Dems are unbelievable monsters.

          Meanwhile commenters here wonder if electing Pinochet to stop Lenin is a decent question to start asking.

          1. Pinochet left office peacefully. Lenin did not.

            The answer should be self-evident.

            1. Arguing Pinochet stepped down from office and Lenin did not…I mean…technically correct, but come on, man.

              Anyhow, electing Pinochet is not a recipe to avoid Lenin, it’s a recipe to get Pinochet.

              This utilitarian calculation, and indeed the invocation of Pinochet implies you’re willing to countenance a Pinochet-esque political purge to, you know, save the Republic. Historically purges with such an excuse have not actually saved the Republic.

        2. ” that’s exactly what’s happening in a number of states. ”

          Alternatively, there’s evidence that he committed actual crimes in a number of different states.

          or do you buy the defense that “Trump University” was so obviously fake that no rational person could have possibly been misled, thus no fraud?

        3. ” They even violated attorney-client privilege on the president, the exact kind of people it is designed to protect against such expiditions.”

          Who, exactly, is the “they” in this story?

    2. Only impeached; or impeached and convicted?

      I doubt it either way. Impeachment is not a criminal process. It is political.

      1. “Only impeached; or impeached and convicted?”

        Reich claims that mere impeachment means that future Presidents can’t pardon him.

        Now, I saw some guys on Twitter saying that this is wrong. And the results of my Google search indicate that it is wrong.

        But of course my Google search doesn’t trump Reich’s Yale Law degree. Nor does Twitter law.

        1. Pardon him for what? He couldn’t be pardoned for the impeachment itself, but the impeachment would have no effect on pardons for any other offenses.

          1. The crazy man in the article claims that because the pardon power cannot be used in “cases of impeachment”, impeaching him on grounds that sound like federal criminal charges would prevent any pardon for those crimes in the future, if the federal government were to later charge someone with them.

            1. Bob Reich is apparently going the way of Rudy Giuliani — any fair-minded interpreter would understand that limitation to mean only that a President cannot, via pardon, remove the penalties of an impeachment removal/conviction. IOW, he could not restore the removed person to his previous office, or re-permit him to hold future offices.

            2. ” The crazy man in the article claims that because the pardon power cannot be used in “cases of impeachment”, impeaching him on grounds that sound like federal criminal charges would prevent any pardon for those crimes in the future, if the federal government were to later charge someone with them.”

              That’s obviously wrong. Pardons don’t work on impeachment, they work on indictments. Pardons not working on impeachment is what keeps Trump from pardoning himself for asking Ukraine for personal favors in exchange for duly authorized military aid.

    3. “a President who is impeached can’t be pardoned by future Presidents”

      Not just him, actual lawyers have written that.

      A complete and wilfull misreading of the “does not extend” language which means that a president can’t restore a removed official to office or prevent an impeachment.

      Trump broke a lot of brains.

      1. I’d be interested in citations. Because yeah, that’s very dumb.

        1. Twitter so I probably can’t find again

          Here is a law professor yesterday in the New York times saying you can’t pardon impeachment witnesses.

          https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/05/opinion/impeachment-pardon-power.html

          1. The obvious means of avoiding such a troubling situation is to establish a prophylactic barrier to presidential pardon of any impeachment witness convicted of perjury or contempt. Can the Constitution be construed as establishing such a barrier? The answer is yes, if we choose to construe the pardon power’s impeachment exception to prohibit not only presidential pardons of impeachment convictions but also pardons of those convicted of criminal undermining of the impeachment process.

            Yep, that Northwestern prof seems like he’s a bit of a hack. Or at least letting his wishes author his legal analysis.

            1. Seems to me that pardoning impeachment witnesses is a pretty clear case of witness-tampering. Which is an impeachable offense in itself.
              This suggests that it isn’t so much “can’t” meaning “not possible to do”, but more “can’t” meaning “you won’t get away with it”.

      2. “Trump broke a lot of brains.”

        True. Starting with the Republicans.

  2. I am sorry but at least with respect to Mr. Obama the statement by the Congressman is about as stupid a statement as one could make, even if one accepts the analysis of Professor Whittington.

    Impeaching Obama and having a successful outcome of a trial in the Senate would seem to mean that he is (1) removed from office and (2) denied ever again to be President of the United States or hold any Federal position. But of course Mr. Obama has already been removed from office and denied the opportunity to be President again by the Constitution. So one would assume that Mr. Gaetz wants to go through the impeachment and trial process to keep Mr. Obama from ever serving as, I don’t know, Assistant Secretary to the Under Secretary to the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Nothing.

    The argument made her by Professor Whittington is fun to read and think about, and thanks to him for writing it, but that is the tail, not the dog. The dog is the supreme idiocy of Rep. Gaetz.

    1. He could also be a Supreme Court justice since he’s a Constitutional scholar. Just ask former President Taft.
      https://www.biography.com/us-president/william-howard-taft

      1. The ABA would give him a unanimous Not Qualified rating, since he has no trial experience. / s

        1. In the current senate, doesn’t that increase the chances of confirmation?

          1. Naa

        2. IIRC, the nominee recently rated Not Qualified was up for a District Court seat. Trial experience is properly considered mandatory for those nominees, inasmuch as the daily job of a District Court Judge is presiding over trials. Appellate court judge and SCOTUS Justice nominees can be qualified despite no trial experience, because SCOTUS and the lower appeals courts don’t conduct trials.

          1. “SCOTUS and the lower appeals courts don’t conduct trials.”

            SCOTUS has original jurisdiction for a small number of types of cases. See Article 3, Section 2.

            1. Of course you are correct sir. I stand corrected.

              Still, as a practical matter….

              1. I agree with you completely (trial practice is essential for a district court judgeship, and not for appellate court judgeship). Besides the type of the work, appellate judges hear cases in panels. You only need one who truly understands procedure on the panel, if the others are deferential (as they should be).

        3. I assume you are being ironic; you need not assume that I am very gullible. The ABA would give either Obama or is wife “Well Qualified” ratings. Though, if Obama were asked to cast a vote regarding his wife, one would hope that he does not merely vote “present.”

      2. Yes, that’s true. But Assistant Secretary to the Under Secretary to the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Nothing is funnier.

        1. Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Redundancy Department of Redundancy.

    2. It would keep him from becoming vice-president. Followed by a heart attack of the President. Or maybe a suicide?

      1. He still wouldn’t be able to be president again, the line of succession skips over any ineligible persons to the next one in line. So in your scenario the Speaker of the House would become President rather than the Vice President

      2. He couldn’t be Vice President anyways.

        12A:
        “But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.”

        1. That’s an interesting thought experiment. The exact wording of the 22nd Amendment is “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice”. One could argue that gaining the office through means other than election (such as the succession of a VP) would not count as being “elected to the office of the President”.

          It is not obvious that “constitutionally ineligible to the office” is necessarily identical in meaning to “ineligible to be elected to the office”. In other words, that clause from the 12th Amendment could be read to incorporate the presidential age requirements to the VP but maybe not to incorporate the 22nd’s term limits.

          1. Plus an additional Congressional amendment can change things.

          2. And if he were selected as a replacement VP with less than 2 years remaining of the term there’s definitely no problem, because he could ascend immediately without maxing out his service.

    3. J.Q. Adams lost the presidency, but went on to be a Senator. I doubt Obama would follow that example, but still.

      1. Off topic, but I think it’s a pity that that went out of fashion somehow. If someone is a very talented politician and leaves the White House relatively young, they should run for something again – be it the Senate or a governorship – rather than opting for early retirement, some speeches, and some kind of charitable foundation, which seems to be the current model.

        1. If he wants it, a Supreme Court position seems readily obtainable for former Pres. Obama. Perhaps he would be ready for one of two spots available sometime during 2021.

          1. Based on the number of times his positions were overturned by the SCOTUS….and his need to recuse himself on a multitude of issues due to pre-existing conflicts…

            LOL. He wouldn’t bother with “pre-existing conflicts”

          2. I doubt Trump will nominate him.

            1. I do, too. But President Warren might.

        2. Nowadays, there is no such thing as leaving the Presidency as a young man. Look at pictures of Clinton, W, and Obama at their inaugurations, and at their successors’ inaugurations. They came in as young men, and left as old men.

          1. Don’t trust anyone over 35!

        3. Once you have made $200 million from your office and look forward to becoming a billionaire from selling your political influence and connections, why settle for a political position?

          Elected offices are for nobodies who want to become rich and powerful and lack other skills. Like Obama.

          1. “lack other skills”

            LOL. I’ll concede that Obama lacked Trump’s skill to inherit and squander a large fortune. If he didn’t enter politics, Obama would have had to settle for something like a tenure track professorship at the elite law school of his choice.

            And before he was elected President, Obama did manage to write two successful books unassisted by ghost writers. As we all see several times daily, Trump is hard-pressed to squeeze out a grammatically coherent, properly spelled Tweet. Throw in factual accuracy, and he’s dead in the water.

            1. Yeah, it’s easy to get a tenure track position when you’re black. A black Harvard law professor should be teaching at Chapman, and a black Chapman law professor should be working at McDonald’s

              1. Thanks. For the benefit of the regulars here who clutch their pearls at Arthur Kirkland, you’re an invaluable example of what racial bigotry really looks like.

            2. 2016 Obama: And, ah,ah,ah,ah I want to speak not just to Democrats I want to speak to Republicans in North Carolina as well. You know, uh, uh, uh, Look I, I, I obviously a partisan Democrat…”

              Yeah, President Teleprompter sure was a great public speaker off the cuff, what with his perfect grammar and pronunciation.

              1. LOL. Nixon was the last GOP president who may have spoken extemporaneously as cogently as Obama. But life is short, so enjoy that comforting fantasy.

              2. The right wing echo chamber might indulge in some petty mock by not editing out his umms like they did with previous Presidents, but don’t take that for truth.
                Obama won his debates, and it wasn’t because he stuttered chief.

          2. Whereas paragons of virtue, such as yourself, eschew public
            and community service for … … …

          3. “Elected offices are for nobodies who want to become rich and powerful and lack other skills. Like Obama.”

            … and his successor.

      2. Actually JQ Adams only became a member of the House of Reps after being President, not a Senator. He was briefly a Senator before becoming President.

        1. I stand corrected, thank you.

    4. Oh get over it. He implied correctly that Obama should have been impeached over his massive abuses of power. Then people went after the initial way he put it, and all he did was acknowledge that but with a wink said that even taken literally, it was technically true.

      Idiots like you read policy statements and legal reasoning into this. The problem isn’t with three congressman, it’s that you’re either stupid or mean.

      1. Had Obama been impeached, Mitch would never have had the power to block legislation in the Senate.

  3. So we can impeach ‘hands on’ Joe for the Ukraine shenanigans, and he cannot run for president, vice-president, or even keep his senate seat?
    Hmmmm

    1. Sure, if you have a shred of evidence of wrongdoing.

      1. Who needs evidence of wrongdoing to impeach? You just need 51% of the House and 2/3rd of the Senate.

        1. You don’t need any Senators to impeach.

      2. The undisputed public facts are more than a shred of evidence.

        Joe Biden threatened $1B of aid to Ukraine if they didn’t fire the prosecutor that had previously investigated the company that hired his son as a figurehead on their board.

        And that’s even before any investigation, or the disputed facts where the prosecutor was actively investigating the company (as evidenced by a search the month before), or any of the other suspicious things that have turned up (like US requests not to prosecute the Bidens) that haven’t been fully vetted.

        The undisputed facts are evidence of wrongdoing. Are they sufficient by themselves? I don’t think so – but “conclusive proof” is not what evidence means.

        1. Where is the evidence that any investigation of Burisma was active when Joe Biden expressed his concerns about the prosecutor?

          1. I dunno. Maybe an investigation would turn up some.

            1. Then maybe Trump should have asked for one from his DoJ, not asked for an announcement of one from Ukraine in exchange for releasing Federal money.

              1. You think the DOJ has jurisdiction in Ukraine? That explains a lot

                1. Well, since the asked-for investigation was of Biden…yeah.

                  LOL.

                2. “You think the DOJ has jurisdiction in Ukraine?”

                  The DOJ has jurisdiction over Americans, regardless of where they happen to be, so, uh, yeah.

                  For example, is it illegal (in an American court) for an American to bribe a foreign official, in a foreign country, to conduct an official act? If, say, that foreign country is Ukraine?

              2. “Then maybe Trump should have asked for one from his DoJ…”

                Yeah, nobody would have thought that that was improper.

                1. You recently claimed he was guilty of a crime for asking the FBI to go easy on somebody, remember?

                  1. You seem to be having an argument with yourself.

          2. The testimony of the lead prosecutor.

          3. Well Shokin announced the seizure of Zlochevsk’s (Burisma guy) assets on 2/4/16: https://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/322395.html

            Shokin was fired on 3/29/16 following pressure by Biden.

            We know the quid, $83,000 per month to Hunter.

            Now we have the quo: A get out of jail free card for Zlochevsky.

            1. That’s some boffo news, if true. Believable, in fact. Because everyone else is saying that there was nothing being done on Burisma, and that’s why the prosecutor was fired.

              1. That’s some boffo news, if true. Unbelievable, in fact. Because everyone else is saying that there was nothing being done on Burisma, and that’s why the prosecutor was fired.

                1. The “everyone else” is your side’s echo chamber.

                  1. Your side is also silent about this so…

                    1. He either seized the assets or he didn’t. The article lists them in detail so if it’s a fabrication it’s a pretty brazen one. What do you have to refute it other than “I haven’t heard about it before?” Maybe you could just dial up grb and have him intone for the four hundred and fifty-sixth time about the EU and the IMF, and how Obama and Kerry made Biden do it.

                2. Maybe this slipped under the super duper investigative radar because the seizure was related to Z’s activities as some environment minister or whatever and not directly related to Burisma. Doesn’t matter because Z was providing the big assed quid to protect himself. And it worked like a charm.

              2. Why don’t you refute it, Boffo?

                1. My comment got eaten, but look up ‘Burisma investigation dormant’

                  1. Nothing that could be found under your description addresses the piece of evidence that I presented. Now I don’t have any corroboration of it (I wasn’t there when they hauled off the Bentley) but if it proves up then it’s the smokiest smoking gun you’re ever likely to find. You could even say it’s “boffo.”

                    1. ” if it proves up then it’s the smokiest smoking gun you’re ever likely to find.”

                      There’s not even any smoke, unless you’re trying to convince us not to elect any Ukrainians President of the United States. We already have that rule.

            2. What you have is proof that some corrupt people hired H. Biden. What you wish you had, perhaps think you have, is proof that J. Biden did something illegal.

              1. Well OJ was acquitted so maybe there’s hope for Biden as well.

                1. You’re right. There doesn’t seem to be much chance Mr. Biden will be acquitted.
                  Because as yet there’s nothing to charge him with, and people who don’t get indicted don’t get acquitted, either.

        2. The undisputed fact is that those are not undisputed facts.

        3. Just the ongoing conflict of interests itself is impeachable.

          1. Oh, dear. If that troubles you, have you heard about our President?

        4. I usually assume everyone posting here is an attorney unless they write IANAL or it is obvious otherwise.
          With you it’s ‘obvious otherwise’.

        5. That word, ‘undisputed,’ I don’t think it means what you think it means…

      3. “Sure, if you have a shred of evidence of wrongdoing”

        You don’t need that.

        The thing is, if you impeach Joe (for anything, real or imagined) the only outcome is that he’d be removed from the office he left 3 years ago.

        Impeaching Joe is like filing an eviction suit for the tenant who already moved out. Technically, you can do it, but the effect is somewhat underwhelming.

    2. Do your damnedest, clingers.

      Then prepare for your betters to return the favor, beginning in a year or so.

      1. You just cling to that hope, clinger.

        1. My hope is that conservatives won’t be able to reverse tide in the culture war, and that the liberal-libertarian mainstream will continue to shape American progress against right-wingers’ wishes and efforts.

          I have enjoyed the course of this throughout my lifetime and there is no reason to expect that trajectory to change. If anything, it’s likely to get tougher to maintain any viable national electoral coalition for a platform founded on intolerance, ignorance, superstition, backwardness, and resentment of the educated, modern “elites.”

  4. The sprinkling of abuse of discretionary power is interesting since the linked articles only go one way. Schiff’s subpoena of press and congressman phone records seems like one such impeachment abuse that should be highlighted…

    1. Rep. Schiff will got before voters next year. If they find his actions an abuse of power, they can remove them from him. Ditto for the House in general… they can remove him from committees if they find his actions an abuse of power.

  5. Can one convict a former Executive of a crime without first impeaching him?

    1. I presume so, because the impeachment after office-holding is to preclude future office-holding. The bar of needing to remove someone from office before criminally charging them wouldn’t be necessary, because they would no longer be in office.

      1. continuing in this vein, does an impeached executive retain his pension, secret service protection, and other “retirement” benefits?

        1. Yes. Punishment can’t go further than removal and dq.

          1. More correctly, following removal from office, the former office-holder can be charged with criminal acts, and if convicted, the penalties can include loss of pension. But the loss of pension can’t happen until conviction in criminal court.

      2. “The bar of needing to remove someone from office before criminally charging them” has no textual basis anyway. You can understand why the DOJ takes that position, though, because they work for Presidents.

        1. It may be an imaginary bar, but if people keep ducking under it as if it is a real bar because everyone else tells them it is, you have to go *way* out of your way to convince people that it’s not.

  6. How silly. It’s completely OK to have your FBI, CIA, NSA and so on investigate and spy on the political opponent presidential nominee candidate’s campaign. And to have more than a dozen countries cooperate and provide information in that effort.

    . . . As long as you’re Obama.

    1. Well, as we’ve seen with the courts, that’s just Trump Law ™.

      Law that only applies to certain unsavory people, like Trump and the rest of us Conservatives.

    2. And Johnson. The second one. Look it up, Lyndon Johnson blatantly abused the power of the CIA to spy on Goldwater’s campaign.

      1. Oh, come on! Just because LBJ had a tap on Goldwater’s campaign phones to have Goldwater’s plans delivered directly to him, plus had the CIA send employees to join the Goldwater campaign and steal copies of policy documents… surely it was just a little misjudgment, not an actual abuse, right? …right, Mr IG?

        1. But god forbid you cancel a meeting with someone for a political purpose. Now THAT’S impeachable conduct.

          1. Don’t know about that one, but requesting personal favors in exchange for doing official acts is definitely impeachable. Even if it’s an otherwise “perfect” phone call.

    3. It’s perfectly OK for the FBI, NSA, and CIA spy on foreign governments’ attempts to influence American elections. If your candidate is stupid enough to agree to meet with them (the foreign governments, I mean), then yeah, those meetings get spied on, too.

      The takeaway is supposed to be “don’t work with foreign governments to get yourself elected in America”. How did you wander off and make that about Obama?

  7. I could have sworn that I read somewhere that the Senate can’t disqualify someone from the presidency because it’s not an office or something.

    1. That’s an interesting counter-argument coming from the Emoluments Clause debate. Several folks have indeed argued that the Presidency is not an “Office” in that context.

      What I think you are missing in trying to make that argument is that the Emoluments Clause says not merely “Office” but “Office of Profit or Trust under them” without clearly specifying who “them” refers to. As the clause continues, it appears to me that “them” refers to “Congress” but the question remains untested.

      So if my (admittedly amateur) interpretation is correct, the Presidency is an “Office” but it is peer-level to Congress, not an Office “under Congress”.

      1. I am not so sure. I read “office” in the impeachment-prohibition context to mean “appointed office” or an office subordinate thereto.

        The point was to avoid having corrupt presidents appointing their impeached-and-removed cronies to lucrative positions in their administrations.

        You have to remember that back then, there were no speaking fees. The salaries and “perks” of office were the attraction.

      2. The Emoluments Clause debate is laughable. I seriously hope they add it to the list of indictments for impeachment. Here’s why.

        Obama was directly paid by the US treasury in excess of his salary (for his treasury bonds), in direct violation of the domestic emoluments clause. And nobody blinked an eye. Obama’s state department ordered tens of thousands of dollars worth of Obama’s books to “hand out” at Embassies worldwide, earning Obama thousands in royalties, straight from the US treasury. And not a word about “impeachment”

        But someone stays at a hotel Trump owns, and suddenly “Emoluments clause violation! Impeach!” It’s laughable. It’s a “Trump bad, we want to impeach him, now lets find a reason we wouldn’t use on anyone else” situation.

        1. Just out of curiosity, where did you get that talking point from? Didn’t Infowars go off the air ages ago?

          1. You mean the book royalties bit?

            CNN. It was brought up briefly, then shoved aside.

            Seriously, whose going to try to impeach a president just because they’re getting some business from the government for decisions and actions they made years before they were elected. That would be crazy, right?

          2. Look, the fact that Democratic media outlets don’t much report on things that make Democrats look bad doesn’t make those things imaginary.

            If you ever expect to hear the bad news about the guys on your side, you have to listen to the other side. It’s not like your own side is going to be talking about them.

            1. “Democratic media outlets” means anyone who reports anything negative about a Republican, right?

  8. The Chief Justice presides when a President is impeached.
    Who does when the target is a former President?

    1. The William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University.

    2. More importantly, who does when the Chief Justice is impeached?

      1. The Vice President. When Samuel Chase was impeached, Aaron Burr presided, and folks said that instead of the murderer getting hauled in front of the judge, the judge was getting hauled in front of the murderer.

  9. There’s only two current/former presidents who are still eligible for president, and I assume Gaetz wasn’t talking about Trump.

    So I have to wonder… just what does Gaetz have against Jimmy Carter?

    1. Maybe a former two-term President would want to be a federal park ranger. Excluding him from federal office would put a stop to that.

  10. If Rep. Gaetz believes former Pres. Obama should be impeached, I hope he tries to do it.

    I also hope he has the courage to admit that he would propose impeachment of Barack Obama mostly to lather and appease Republicans outraged by former Pres. Obama’s inability to pass the one-drop test.

    Carry on, clingers. Until replacement.

    1. “Pres. Obama’s inability to pass the one-drop test”

      He’s white?

      No, I know what you’re saying in your own subtle way. If only it had been a white Democrat doing all the things Obama did, no Republican would have objected.

      1. What former Pres. Obama did was irrelevant. Republicans went to the mats immediately and irrevocably because the conservative base — rural, southern, intolerant, backward — wouldn’t abide a black president.

        1. Look at the free ride they gave to that white Southern redneck, Bill Clinton!

        2. “What former Pres. Obama did was irrelevant”

          He blatantly violated US laws, violated the emoluments clause, blew up the war powers act, dropped billions of dollars semi-illegally onto his campaign donors, destroyed due process at college campuses, oh, and lest we forget, assassinated US Citizens without a trial.

          Just for a start.

          1. Oh, and he also denied US military aid to Ukraine…perhaps return Russia’s “space” favor, like he promised.

  11. “President Impeached Because He Used Phone” ought to be the headline. What a joke. I really thought the Dems might use the holidays to end the madness and just do a censure resolution. Guess not.

    Only if Trump had a “broke ass phone” that day they probably would have had to impeach him because he combs his hair in a way Pelosi doesn’t like.

    1. What kind of off topic impeachment boilerplate talking points is this?

      1. Ignore it, Sarcastro. It’s just JTD, who is putting himself in a class with RWH.

      2. Just noting that impeachment is the most stupid thing the left has ever done. They are literally impeaching him for making a phone call. But what else can you expect from a group that has tried to actively undermine him since day 1. This is just the latest in their long series of treasonous acts.

        1. Where were you when the mob bosses convicted ‘for making a phone call’ could have used that legal insight?

        2. “Just noting that impeachment is the most stupid thing the left has ever done.”

          In the sense that the only party to impeach a President in the last century was, well, the other guys?

          ” what else can you expect from a group that has tried to actively undermine him since day 1″

          Yeah! That’s totally unprecedented going all the way back to 2009!

          “This is just the latest in their long series of treasonous acts.”

          Thinking the President is a criminal isn’t treason.

    2. ” I really thought the Dems might use the holidays to end the madness and just do a censure resolution. ”

      President Trump called that option “unacceptable”. Guess they took him at his word.

  12. Ideally, there should be an interval after someone leaves office – like a year – to preclude the possibility of someone like Belknap avoiding accountability by resigning – or hypothetically, to impeach an officeholder for doing crazy stuff just as his term is expiring (like 11th hour pardons of campaign donors, hypothetically speaking).

  13. No, I have a “better” option. We should use the Pelosi theory of impeachment to impeach every Federal officer and Congressman and woman who has violated the Pelosi theory.

    See, you need to read exactly what Pelosi said. Apparently refusing a meeting with someone because they failed to agree to give you something is grounds for impeachment. Following on that point, granting a meeting with someone because they gave you something is also grounds on impeachment. So, any politician or official who has ever given a meeting to someone because that person gave them something of political value is to be impeached.

    1. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

      Good lord you’re desperate.

      1. I’m desperate? Read what Pelosi said. Really, read it.

        Refusing or delaying a meeting for political reasons is grounds for impeachment according to her. It’s insane.

        1. I don’t care whether her words are parseable like that or not.

          Call me when that appears in the articles of impeachment.

          1. “Give me something I want, or I’ll withhold an official act of my office” is fairly directly parse-able into the criminal code. Yes, I took liberties with Mr. Trump’s actual words. “I need you to do me a favor” is out of Act 1 of “The Godfather”, who was of course entirely innocent of criminal intention, too.

  14. “American legislatures were prohibited from imposing punishments other than removal and disqualification on those who had been convicted in impeachment trials.”

    Really? Where? The Constitution just uses the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” which I don’t think is defined anywhere.

    My prediction is that if the House votes to impeach the president for how he parts his hair, and 2/3 of the Senate votes to convict, he will be out. And the courts will say it is “nonjusticiable” and let it stand.

    1. Article I, Section 3: “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”

      Article II, Section 4: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”

      1. What? Actual citations of text from the Constitution? What does that have to do with a political squabble among factions of Americans?

        1. You confuse me Pollock. When I quoted you the same text, you said I was misreading it. Care to explain what you meant?

          1. WTF are you mumbling about?

  15. Here’s the deal. Trump should be tried and convicted, and then sentenced to a punishment that would REALLY punish him… make him be President, AND have to stay in Washington, D.C. and run the government.

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