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The Legal Difficulties of Presidential Impeachment

By January 18, 2021July 14th, 2021People

ust over a year after his first impeachment, Donald Trump became the first president in US history to be impeached for a second time. Politically and legally, the US government and judicial system is now in uncharted waters so let’s try to unpack what impeachment means and what the potential consequences could be. 

Impeachment is a charge of misconduct brought before a holder of public office. In this second case, a single article of impeachment accused Mr Trump of inciting the riot which resulted in a group of his supporters breaking into the Capitol building.

Impeachment proceedings need to pass through the House of Representatives, which only needs a majority vote to approve, and then the Senate, which requires a 2/3 majority vote to confirm articles of impeachment. Articles of impeachment have already been confirmed by Congress, with one of the stark differences to the first impeachment being that 10 Republicans broke ranks and voted against the president, as opposed to last year when none of them did. Proceedings now move to the Senate for confirmation. 

The Senate trial will likely bleed into the start of Mr Biden’s term as president, causing the President-elect a political and legal headache. Articles of impeachment, especially those as unprecedented as these, will take up a lot of time in the Senate, whom he needs to help enact his important first-100-day plan. It is being reported that in order to keep the country moving and ensuring as peaceful a transition as possible, he will request that the Senate work on this part time, allowing members of the Senate to work on appointments and legislation at times when they are not sitting on the jury for the impeachment. 

But what does all this practically mean for President Trump’s future? Due to the complex and often vague nature of the US Constitution, a lot of it will be open to interpretation by Congress. At present, it seems that if impeachment is confirmed, there will be further votes on what privileges Mr Trump will be disqualified from which would usually be afforded to former presidents. These include a £220,000 a year pension, security detail, paid office space, and others.

Regardless of how impeachment proceedings are finalised, we can be assured of a lengthy legal battle from Mr Trump’s legal team over his treatment at the hands of his former colleagues. As experts in employment law who have seen our fair share of post-employment cases, we’re keeping our eyes on this one!

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