x
Breaking News
More () »

Tampa Bay and Sarasota's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Tampa Bay and Sarasota, FL | WTSP.com

How would a second impeachment of President Trump play out?

House Democrats have officially introduced an impeachment resolution for President Trump following last Wednesday's attack on the Capitol.
Credit: AP
President Donald Trump speaks during a rally protesting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as President, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Trump enters the last days of his presidency facing a second impeachment and growing calls for his resignation after his supporters launched an assault on the nation’s Capitol in an effort to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. Yet Trump will try to go on offense in his last 10 days, with no plans of resigning. Instead, Trump is planning to lash out against the companies that have now denied him his Twitter and Facebook bullhorns. And aides hope he will spend his last days trying to trumpet his policy accomplishments, beginning with a trip to Alamo, Texas Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — 80 days. 

That's how long proceedings for President Donald Trump's first impeachment lasted back in 2019. 

After multiple public hearings, hundreds of pages of transcribed phone calls, and hours of heated debates between lawmakers - Trump was not convicted of abusing the power of his office or obstructing justice.

Now, with only nine days left in office, House Democrats hope to impeach Trump for a second time, which would make him the first U.S. president to be impeached twice.

Democrats in the House have introduced an 'incitement of insurrection' impeachment article against Trump following last Wednesday's attack on the Capitol. And, a vote is expected by Jan. 13.

The four-page bill pulls from the president's false statements about his defeat to Joe Biden; his pressure on Georgia election officials to "find" him votes; and his White House rally held shortly before the siege of the Capitol, in which he told thousands of supporters to "fight like hell."

The crowd eventually stormed into the Capitol building. 

But, with a still deeply divided congress deciding the fate of a president who has one foot out the door, how would the impeachment process play out this time around?

RELATED: FBI says range of crimes 'unmatched' in Capitol riots

Back to Basics

First, how does impeachment work?

Many people believe that once an elected official is impeached, they automatically are removed from office, never to be heard from again.

In actuality, being impeached is the same as being charged with a crime.

Members of the House draw up articles of impeachment, and the chamber must vote to pass those articles by a majority vote. 

In this case, House Democrats have introduced an 'incitement of insurrection' impeachment article against Trump. If the House votes to charge the president, then it will be up to the Senate to convict him. 

It's likely the articles of impeachment will pass, as Democrats hold a majority in the House. However, unlike typical impeachment proceedings, lawmakers are hoping to vote on the articles by mid-week, speeding up the process by skipping any investigations, which is completely legal.  

After passing, the charges would be placed in the hands of the Senate, which then require a two-thirds majority vote from Senators to convict Trump. 

That's where things get tricky and deeply political. Republicans hold a majority of the Senate at the moment -- meaning the party of Trump holds all the cards.

Credit: AP Photo/John Minchillo
Violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. It's been a stunning day as a number of lawmakers and then the mob of protesters tried to overturn America's presidential election, undercut the nation's democracy and keep Democrat Joe Biden from replacing Trump in the White House.

Newly-elected Georgia Democratic Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff aren't sworn in yet. So, let's look at the current Senate to understand what happens next.

If all 46 Senate Democrats voted in favor of convicting Trump, and they were joined by the two independent Senate members who typically caucus with them, then at least 19 Senate Republicans would have to join them in order to remove the president from office, which may be unlikely.

Many Republican lawmakers have come out to denounce the president's role in inciting last Wednesday's riot at the Capitol, but very few if any have said they would vote to impeach Trump, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

According to Dr. Edwin Benton, a professor of political science and public administration at the University of South Florida, McConnell plays a key role in Trump's trial. McConnell has repeadetly said there is no time for a full impeachment trial before the end of Trump's presidency. But by kicking the can down the road, McConnell opens the door to an impeachment trial overseen by a Democratic majority once Biden is inaugurated. 

"[Senate Republicans] could fast track it and derail it," Dr. Benton said. "McConnell could cooperate and have a vote, not get the two-thirds majority for conviction and process over. But in so doing, McConell is taking a gamble that he still has enough votes."

No matter what Republicans decide to do, it is highly likely that by the end of the week, Trump will be the first president in history to be formally impeached twice in the House, leaving the Senate just days to decide whether to vote to remove him from office.

Quick Bit of History

Only three presidents have been formally impeached, including Trump. 

Andrew Johnson in 1868 was impeached and acquitted by just one vote. Bill Clinton was impeached in 1999, but the Senate couldn't even muster a majority vote on any of the two charges.

Credit: AP
FILE - In this Nov. 19, 1998 file photo, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., presides over the committee's impeachment hearing for President Bill Clinton, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The public impeachment inquiry hearings this week usher in a rare and momentous occasion in American history as Congress debates whether to remove a sitting president from office. (AP Photo/Joe Marquette, File)

It's not over til it's over

But what if Trump didn't still need to be president in order to be convicted? What if the impeachment trial overlapped with a Biden presidency?

Dr. Benton says whether or not McConnell decides to hold a trial prior to Biden's presidency, the incoming majority Senate Democrats can raise the issue once again. 

At that point, control over the Senate would be deadlocked at 50-to-50, meaning only 17 Senate Republicans would then be needed to convict Trump. Again, that's factoring in the two independents who would likely vote with the Democrats.

It's never happened in the history of the country, but a former president can still be convicted of charges if an impeachment trial is underway. 

Dr. Benton says things would have to get far worse under Trump to convince 17 Republicans to convict him, but if it does happen, and Trump is convicted, then the Senate could move forward on a vote to bar Trump from holding future federal office. That would just require a majority vote, which Democrats would have at that time.

"The endgame here for Democrats, or anyone who has significant problems with the president - even Republicans - is to bar [Trump] from running for the presidency or any other elected office," Dr. Benton says.

Trump also stands to lose more than a chance at running for office if he's convicted. Many legal experts believe that if a president is convicted, they stand to lose their $200,000 a year pension and travel allowance. However, nothing in the Constitution specifically says that.

Experts tell our VERIFY team the president would probably keep his security detail.

All that being said, the fate of Trump's presidency is still up in the air. 

RELATED: VERIFY: If a president is impeached, will they lose benefits like security detail and pensions?

What other people are reading right now:

►Breaking news and weather alerts: Get the free 10 Tampa Bay app

Stay In the Know! Sign up now for the Brightside Blend Newsletter