Does the Constitution allow a president to be impeached after he leaves office?

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Michell Eloy

A day after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, people call for the president’s impeachment in Brooklyn, New York, January 7, 2020. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann/Sipa USA

The House introduced one article of impeachment against the president today — for inciting a mob to attack the Capitol last week. If approved, Trump would become the first U.S. president impeached twice.

The Constitution would allow an impeachment trial to happen after a president’s term ends, says Jessica Levinson, law professor at Loyola Law School. That’s partly because a consequence of being convicted is you can’t run for office again.

“Impeachment is not just about removal. Because obviously once a president’s term is over, people could say, ‘What’s the point?’ The point would be to say, ‘You can't run in 2024. And you can't raise money. You can't use the benefit of the campaign finance rubric to try and run again in 2024,’” Levinson explains.

A trial would be the cleanest way to do this, she adds. “The president still could be subject to federal charges, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he would be prevented from running. … If he is inside a jail or prison, that would obviously make it difficult to run for president as well.”

The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia left open the idea that Trump could be charged for inciting this insurrection under federal law. Levinson says that’s possible: “If you look back to the president's words, and you look back to what insurrection is, yeah, I do think that it is possible.”

She adds, “We have a really strong First Amendment tradition in our country. We have a lot of protection for what people say when it comes to speeches, and particularly political speech. … But if you listen to what the president [said], I think you can, with a straight face, make an argument for insurrection.”

Also, criminal charges have been brought forward for some of the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6. The Justice Department has so far charged 13 people for unlawful entry, violent entry, destruction of property, disorderly conduct, and unlawful possession of a firearm. Dozens more have been charged in DC Superior Court on some of those same crimes, as well as breaking curfew. 

Credits

Guest:
Jessica Levinson - Professor, LMU's Loyola Law School in Los Angeles - @LevinsonJessica

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Angie Perrin, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Bennett Purser