House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had made it clear that if Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet don’t invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office, they very well could consider a second set of articles of impeachment for the president next week.
Pelosi says the president “must be held accountable.” She noted at her news conference Thursday that her phone was “exploding with ‘impeach, impeach, impeach.’” And, if Pence and the Cabinet don’t act, the House will “proceed with our action.”
Trump only has days left of his term, as President-elect Joe Biden is set to be sworn in on Jan. 20.
How would it work?
Note that the House is supposed to be out of session until the inauguration. But articles of impeachment don’t require weeks of interviews, depositions, investigations, hearings and floor debate.
If the House quickly crafts articles of impeachment and puts them on the floor and if the House approves the articles, a figure is impeached. They can go to the floor rather quickly if they want.
Why do it with only days left of his term?
Democrats view the president’s Wednesday speech as so malignant – triggering the sacking of the Capitol — that he has to be called out. That’s to say nothing of politically forcing Republicans to take a challenging vote and be on the record either defending or breaking with Trump. Moreover, Democrats would love to leave Trump with a double impeachment mark on his record.
The House has impeached 20 officials. Three were presidents. But in the late 1790s, the House impeached Tennessee Sen. William Blount twice.
What about a trial in the Senate?
Senate impeachment rules require the Senate trial start organically once the House sends the articles of impeachment to the Senate. There is no filibuster to block this. And it doesn’t matter which party is in control. Impeachment articles are of the highest privileges in the Senate.
Still, concluding a Senate trial before Trump leaves office is challenging because they are running out of track. It takes a two-thirds vote to convict and remove the president. Fox is told some Republicans may be willing to vote for removal. Fox is also told that some senators don’t want to be on the record for this. So, it’s theoretically possible the number to convict is not “67.” It could be lower than that. The Senate vote for conviction is two-thirds of those voting and present.
Still, two-thirds is a high bar.
Could things happen after Trump’s out of office?
There is precedent for the Senate trying an official after leaving office. Tennessee Sen. William Blount was out of office and the speaker of the Tennessee House when his Senate trial began on Christmas Day, 1798 (see, Congress even messed up the holidays back then, too).
But the Senate eventually voted to dismiss the articles since Blount was no longer a senator. Conceivably, the same could happen if a Senate trial were to occur after President Trump left office.
There’s precedent for that, as well.
In July 2009, the Senate was about to consider articles of impeachment against federal Judge Samuel Kent. But before the Senate trial could begin, Kent resigned. Still, the Senate had to somehow, parliamentarily dispense with the articles. So, the Senate voted to dismiss the case since Kent resigned.
It’s possible there could be a similar effort to dispense with a Senate trial of Trump after he left office. However, Democrats would also like to get Republicans on the record as to whether they were for conducting the trial or dismissing it.