Trust Index: Viral tweet about Trump impeachment consequences lacks context

Consequences are tied to removal from office, not necessarily impeachment

FILE - In this Tuesday, March 15, 2016, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters at his primary election night event at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla. At right is his son Eric Trump. Hits to President Donald Trumps business empire since the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol are part of a liberal cancel culture, his son Eric told The Associated Press on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, saying his father will leave the presidency with a powerful brand backed by millions of voters who will follow him to the ends of the Earth. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) (Gerald Herbert, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – As lawmakers with the U.S. House of Representatives are pushing for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, people are turning to social media to give their take on the matter.

Some people argue as it gets closer to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, set to take place on Jan. 20, it isn’t worth the time and effort.

While others argue that impeaching the president for a second time now has a different focus: limiting him from running again and making sure he does not have access to other “presidential perks” once his term is over.

One viral post is making its rounds outlining why lawmakers should proceed with impeachment. It says the following:

For those wondering if it’s worth impeaching him this time, it means he:

1) loses his 200k+ plus pension for the rest of his life

2) loses his 1 million dollar/year travel allowance

3) loses lifetime full secret service detail

4) loses his ability to run in 2024″

Though the viral tweet does hit upon some important consequences of impeachments, they all aren’t necessarily tied together. News 6 ran them through our Trust Index with a constitutional law expert.

“I think one of the sources of confusion surrounds the word impeachment,” University of Miami Law professor Carolina Mala Corbin said. “There’s a technical meaning of the word and there’s the colloquial use of the word and I think a lot of times when people hear the word impeachment they think the president is being removed from office.”

Corbin is a highly regarded professor of constitutional law. She elaborated that impeachment is a two-step process, with impeachment being the first step.

Disqualifying the president to run for future office
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The U.S. House of Representatives begins the impeachment process by officially bringing charges against someone, Corbin explained. The Senate then holds trial and votes whether or not to convict.

“The U.S. Constitution impeachment clauses do contemplate barring the president from holding office in the future,” Corbin said, addressing one of the claims made in the viral post.

She said this is the portion of the impeachment clauses that lawmakers could pursue even as the president’s term comes to an end.

“Even if the clock runs out, even if the Senate does not finish its trial before his term ends, it is still worth pursuing the impeachment process because the senate can also vote to disqualify him from future federal officers as written in the Constitution,” Corbin said.

Corbin further explained that the Constitution does not address the situation where the trial takes place after the president leaves office, but notes nothing in the Constitution makes it impossible for the trial to continue even as the president leaves office.

“So many of these questions are unchartered territory because they simply have not come up before,” she said. “The one thing I think is clear is that the Constitution does give the Senate power not only to remove the president from office but also to disqualify him from holding office in the future.”

Losing “presidential perks”
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Corbin said for the other claims made in the viral tweet, people should look to the Former Presidents Act.

“(Its) the source of many of the benefits for presidents after they finish and it includes a monthly stipend, it includes a travel allowance, and it includes money for an office and for an office staff,” Corbin said, outlining a few of the benefits mentioned in the law.

She says the law also has language that addresses a few of the points made in the viral tweet.

It refers to Section 4 of Article 2 in the U.S. Constitution, which outlines the president and other civil officers of the U.S. can be removed from office via impeachment and conviction of treason, bribery or other high crimes.

“Basically, these benefits are not available to someone whose office has been terminated by impeachment and removal,” Corbin said. “So if the president were both impeached and convicted before he left office, he would lose several benefits.”

Corbin stressed that straightforward reading of the law does mean the impeachment process would likely have to play out before the president wraps up his term for lawmakers to decisively agree that President Trump would not be eligible for the benefits under the Former Presidents Act.

“It’s not clear cut,” she said about how the Former Presidents Act may apply if the president is not removed from office.

Can you remove a president from office another way?
Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images) (2010 Getty Images)

Beyond impeachment and removal from office, there are two other ways to remove a president from office.

One of the more common ways is the 25th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, which Corbin explained really strips the president of his power.

“It’s not for lawmakers,” she clarified. “(Its) if the vice president and a majority of his cabinet conclude that he is not capable of governing the country.”

She said the 25th amendment typically applies if the president were physically injured or unconscious. Corbin added there’s nothing in the text of the amendment that prevents it from being applied to a mental disability as well.

Another option that has been raised pertains to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which could disqualify Trump from running for any state or federal office.

The 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War, is notable for outlining citizenship rights and providing equal protection under the law. Corbin says there’s one part that has gained popularity during discussions of impeachment.

“There is a separate section in the 14th Amendment that people who have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and who has engaged in insurrection or rebellion or -- who had given aid and comfort to those who have -- are disqualified from holding any public office, both state and federal, civil and military,” Corbin said.

The law professor explained that if lawmakers determine the events that happened on Jan. 6 is the kind of insurrection covered by that section of the 14th Amendment, then arguable anyone who participated or helped with it could be barred from future office.

“This issue has only arisen in the past few days,” she said. “This is a really novel constitutional interpretation.”

She said the root of the original clause was to prevent people who had participated in the Confederacy from holding office after the Civil War. Yet the wording does not limit it to people who succeeded from the nation.

“It basically says if you took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and you violated that oath by helping an insurrection or engaging in insurrections, then you should not be in public life,” Corbin said.

When it comes to making sense of the events happening nationally, Corbin says that context is key to understanding what’s happening and to rely on verified sources.

“I must confess, I also saw that tweet and I thought ‘oh, I don’t know if that’s true or not,” she said.

She says many of the events happening are historic and in some instances the first time the nation is faced with certain circumstances. To avoid getting confused or spreading misinformation, trust fact-checking news sources and take the extra time to make one understands the context because much of what’s happening doesn’t have an absolute outcome.