Donald Trump has been impeached – again.
The president has become the first president in US history to be impeached twice, after being charged with “incitement of insurrection” over last week’s deadly storming of Congress.
The House of Representatives accused Mr Trump of encouraging violence with his false claims of election fraud.
Mr Trump, a Republican, now faces trial in the upper chamber, the Senate, but not before he leaves office next Wednesday, when Democrat Joe Biden will be sworn in.
To impeach means to bring charges in Congress that will form the basis for a trial. It’s important to note this is a political process, rather than a criminal one.
The US constitution states a president “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanours”.
A vote was held on Wednesday in the House of Representatives. Ten of Mr Trump’s Republican party joined Democrats to impeach him by 232-197.
The president has been impeached once before over allegations he sought help from Ukraine to boost his chances of re-election. The Senate acquitted him of these charges.
Now Mr Trump has become the first president in history to be impeached twice.
Now that impeachment charges have been brought to the House and passed in a vote, the case is passed to the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is necessary to convict the president and remove him from office.
It is unclear if Democrats will get those numbers in the Senate, where they only hold half of the seats.
If Mr Trump is convicted by the Senate, lawmakers could hold another vote to block him from running for elected office again – which he has indicated he planned to do in 2024. This could be the biggest consequence of this impeachment.
If he is convicted, a simple majority of senators would be needed to block Mr Trump from holding “any office of honour, trust or profit under the United States”.
This could be appealing to Republicans hoping to run for president in the future and those who want Mr Trump out of the party.
However, none of this will come during Mr Trump’s remaining week in office.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said that there is “no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in” and that it “would best serve the interests of the nation if Congress focused on a safe and orderly transition of power”.
There has been talk of Mr Trump losing benefits granted to his predecessors under the 1958 Former Presidents Act, which include a pension and health insurance, and potentially a lifetime security detail at taxpayers’ expense. However, Mr Trump will likely keep these benefits if he is convicted after leaving office.
Senior House Democrats have said that the party may choose not to send any articles of impeachment to the Senate until after Mr Biden’s first 100 days in office.
That would allow Mr Biden to confirm his new cabinet and kick-start key policies including tackling coronavirus – something that would have to wait if the Senate had already received the impeachment articles.
Read more: Impeachment: A very simple guide (Written December 2019)
Could Trump pardon himself?
Media reports, quoting unnamed sources, say Mr Trump has suggested to aides he is considering granting a pardon to himself in the final days of his presidency.
The president already faces numerous investigations, including New York State inquiries into whether he misled tax authorities, banks or business partners.
So could the president pardon himself?
The short answer is we do not know, given the short wording but broad application of the constitution, and the fact there is no precedent for a US leader issuing such a pardon.
Some legal experts have previously said no, citing an opinion issued by the Justice Department days before Richard Nixon’s resignation that he could not pardon himself “under the fundamental rule that no-one may be a judge in his own case”.
Others though say the constitution does not preclude a self-pardon.
How likely is any of this?
With the president impeached for a second time, now all eyes are on the Senate.
The question is whether the required two thirds of the Senate would vote to remove the president. At least 17 Republican senators would have to vote for conviction.
According to the New York Times, as many as 20 Senate Republicans are open to convicting the president, but the timeline of when a trial could be held is not known.
Syndicated from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-55586677