It seems increasingly likely Donald Trump will become the first US president in history to be impeached twice.

The House of Representatives is set to pass a motion as soon as Tuesday following claims Mr Trump incited the deadly DC riots.

What is looking far less likely, however, is that Mr Trump will be forced out of office before his term finishes next week.

"This will not happen, even (though) a number of Republican politicians are furious with the President," said Dr Carla Winston, an international relations lecturer at the University of Melbourne.

So, what's the point? Well, while Mr Trump may breathe a sigh of relief that he won't face the ignominy of being unceremoniously turfed out of the White House prior to Joe Biden's inauguration on January 20, his reprieve could be short lived.

It's very possible his impeachment proceedings could continue long after he's left office, which raises the very real threat he could be barred from attempting another presidential run. And in an added blow, millions of dollars in perks enjoyed by former presidents could also be snatched away.

 

WHY IS TRUMP BEING IMPEACHED?

Five people have now died as a direct result of last Wednesday's storming of the Capitol Building in Washington DC.

A rally earlier that day, which occurred after Mr Trump invited his followers "to walk down to the Capitol", is being cited by some as evidence of incitement and grounds for him to leave office - from both sides of politics.

Republican senator Pat Toomey joined calls for the President to resign.

"I acknowledge that may not be likely, but I think that would be best," he told NBC.

On Sunday US time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed that if Vice President Mike Pence didn't use his powers under the 25th amendment to sack his boss, which he has shown little sign of doing, then impeachment proceedings would begin.

Ms Pelosi said the President was an "imminent threat" to democracy and a vote to impeach him could happen as soon as Tuesday.

 

 

WHAT IS IMPEACHMENT?

Impeachment is one of the most enduring tools US politicians have to remove one of their own or other senior officials, such as a judge. It was first used as long ago as 1797.

Those who are accused of "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours" can be impeached.

But Suzanna Sherry, a law professor at Tennessee's Vanderbilt University, said the definition of "high crimes and misdemeanours" was vague.

"Nobody knows," she told the US' ABC News.

"The general thought is that it means whatever the House and the Senate think it means."

All that's needed for a president to be impeached is for a simple majority in the House of Representatives.

That fate has befallen three presidents: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Mr Trump last year for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

With the Democrats having a majority in the Reps, impeaching Mr Trump could happen very quickly.

Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, but he was not convicted in the Senate so could remain as President.
Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, but he was not convicted in the Senate so could remain as President.

WHY DIDN'T TRUMP GET THE BOOT LAST TIME?

You may have noticed that despite Mr Trump being impeached once before, he remained in office. That's because impeachment itself has no actual effect apart from being rather humiliating.

Once the Reps has impeached a president, the matter passes to the Senate - and that's where the real action takes place. It's here that the accused faces a trial on the charges.

It's not a criminal trial. Mr Trump won't go to prison. But if the President is convicted, he's gone.

However, the Senate is also where the process gets bogged down, said Melbourne's Dr Winston.

"A two-thirds majority in the Senate is required to remove the President," she said.

"This will not happen, even as a number of Republican politicians are furious with the President," she said, pointing to Republican Senators who continued to suggest there was something dodgy about Mr Biden's victory just hours after they had been chased out of their own chamber by enraged pro-Trump rioters.

"It would also be difficult to get more than half of a group of people appointed by the President in part for their loyalty to vote to remove him from power," she said.

 

TRUMP'S 'DEATH BLOW'

Even if impeachment did get to the Senate, the process could be so slow, Mr Trump will have left office before it is debated.

Yet some in the Democratic Party have no issue with the fact its passage might be delayed for some time after Mr Biden is inaugurated.

Ostensibly, that's so as not to overshadow the new President's first months in office.

But there's another reason to impeach Mr Trump even after he has gone. Impeachment can also lead to a lifetime ban on high public office.

Alan Baron, a legal expert and veteran of four impeachment inquiries involving judges, told broadcaster Aljazeera that "could be a death blow to Trump".

"There's been talk about Trump's role as the sort of the government in exile, with regard to rallying Republicans when he's out of office," he said.

"If he's barred from holding any federal office, he's kind of a toothless tiger."

A vote on disqualifying a president from any future election runs only needs a simple majority - which the Democrats will have in the Senate in a few weeks.

However, it usually follows on from a two-thirds majority to sack the President and it's questionable whether enough Republicans will back such a move for it to pass even when the Dems control the Senate.

Some legal experts have suggested that if Mr Trump is already gone, the Senate might be able to skip the conviction part and move straight to a disqualification vote. That has yet to be tested.

 

HE COULD LOSE MILLIONS

If Mr Trump is indeed impeached in both houses, it could be very costly. He could lose most of the perks granted to former presidents.

This would include an annual pension of $US219,000 ($A284,000), staffing costs of $US96,000 ($A124,000) and office rent that could reach $5US00,000 ($A640,000).

That's at least $1 million a year in lost revenue to Mr Trump. You can add onto that free travel and healthcare.

It might not be a huge issue for a billionaire, but a million dollars plus a year is hardly small change.

The one thing Mr Trump wouldn't lose is his security protection.

In the end, even if impeachment is little more than a slap on the wrist, it will still smart.

"Even if barring Trump from holding future office falls short, then you've marked him as the only president in history to be impeached twice," Thomas Keck, a professor of political science at New York's Syracuse University told Aljazeera.

"It has to be a matter for the historical record to say that inciting a mob to attack the Congress and try to prevent them from certifying the results of an election is unacceptable behaviour."

Originally published as 'Death blow': Real reason for impeachment


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