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              Con gressional                                           ______
              Research Service





The Impeachment and Trial of a Former

President



January   15, 2021
For the second time in just over a year, the House of Representatives has voted to impeach President
Donald J. Trump. The House previously voted to impeach President Trump on December 18, 2019, and
the Senate voted to acquit the President on February 5, 2020. Because the timing of this second
impeachment vote is so close to the end of the Trump Administration, it is possible that any resulting
Senate trial may not occur until after President Trump leaves office on January 20, 2021. This possibility
has prompted the question of whether the Senate can try a former President for conduct that occurred
while he was in office.

The   Constitution's Impeachment Provisions
The Constitution grants Congress authority to impeach and remove the President, Vice President, and
other federal civil Officers for treason, bribery, or other high Crimes and Mis demeanors.
Impeachment  is one of the various checks and balances created by the Constitution, and it serves as a
powerful tool for holding government officers accountable.
The impeachment process entails two distinct proceedings carried out by the separate houses of Congress.
First, a simple majority of the House impeaches-or formally approves allegations of wrongdoing
amounting to an impeachable offense. The second proceeding is an impeachment trial in the Senate. If the
Senate votes to convict with a two-thirds majority, the official is removed from office. The Senate also
can disqualify an official upon conviction from holding a federal office in the future; according to Senate
practice, this vote follows the vote for conviction. The House has impeached twenty individuals: fifteen
federal judges, one Senator, one Cabinet member, and three Presidents. Of these, eight individuals-all
federal judges-were convicted by the Senate. President Trump is the first individual that the House has
impeached twice. During the first impeachment process, the Senate voted to acquit him following a trial
for charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Impeachment of Officials After Leaving Office
The Constitution does not directly address whether Congress may impeach and try a former President for
actions taken while in office. Though the text is open to debate, it appears that most scholars who have

                                                              Congressional Research Service
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