Trump impeachment: Can Congress impeach the president in a week?

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a letter to colleagues this weekend said the House will ask Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove President Donald Trump from office.

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The nonbinding resolution will give Pence 24 hours to invoke the amendment designed to shift power away from a president who is incapacitated or incapable of leading the country.

Should Pence decline to invoke the amendment, Pelosi said the House is prepared to move forward with an article of impeachment, charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for encouraging a mob that went on to attack the U.S. Capitol building last Wednesday, leaving five people dead.

“In protecting our Constitution and our democracy, we will act with urgency, because this president represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi wrote to House members. “As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this president is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.”

The Speaker’s plan, according to House Whip Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, is to vote on the article of impeachment if Pence refuses to invoke the 25th Amendment, but not to send the article to the Senate for a trial until after Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office.

“Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running,” Clyburn told CNN in explaining the plan to delay a Senate impeachment trial.

Can a president be impeached and convicted in a week? Here is what we know about what could happen this week.

Impeachment by midweek

According to Clyburn, the House, which is in recess, will reconvene on Tuesday or Wednesday to hear and vote on an impeachment resolution that is being prepared by Representatives David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Ted Lieu of California.

The resolution accuses Trump of “willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States.”

While votes on impeachments are generally preceded by hearings and testimony (used to build a case against the person being impeached), that does not have to happen. When the House reconvenes, it can skip the hearings and a traditional vote by the House Judiciary Committee that moves articles of impeachment to the House floor, and vote on the article of impeachment.

If it does so, it will take a simple majority vote for Trump to be impeached for a second time.

At that point, he is impeached, but not convicted of the charges in the impeachment resolution.

What happens after a House impeachment vote?

Once a person is impeached in the House, the trial on those charges moves to the Senate floor. For Trump to be removed from office, the Senate would have to hear the evidence, hear the president’s defense and vote either to convict or acquit him of those charges.

Doing that in a week would be difficult at best. The first hurdle would be getting the Senate back in session.

Because the Senate is in recess until Jan. 19, the day before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration (per the body’s rules), it would take unanimous consent to reconvene – meaning if even one senator objects to reconvening, it won’t happen.

However, could Trump be impeached after he has left office?

Because there is such a tight time frame, if a trial happens it would have to come after Trump’s term ends at noon on Jan. 20. There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits holding a trial after a person is out of office, and it has happened before, though not with a president.

In 1876, William W. Belknap, President Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary of war, was impeached on charges of graft. He resigned from his post two hours before he was impeached, but the impeachment process continued. Belknap’s case went to the Senate for a trial after he had left his post. He was acquitted by the Senate at the impeachment trial.

Why do it after he has left office?

If Trump is impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, the Senate is granted the power by the Constitution to bar him from seeking public office in the future.

Barring Trump from running again for public office requires a separate vote after the vote for conviction. It requires a simple majority of 51 senators to pass.

According to Fox News’s John Roberts, there was “talk swirling” that not only do Democrats want Trump barred from running for a second term, some Republicans also want to ensure that Trump cannot run for president again in 2024.