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VERIFY: Here's what impeachment might look like with limited time remaining in a presidency

With less than two weeks remaining in his term, President Donald Trump could be facing a second impeachment if Democratic leaders get their way.

WASHINGTON — QUESTION:

Could House Democrats move forward with an impeachment of President Donald Trump, despite the fact that less than two weeks remain in his term? 

ANSWER:

Yes. Multiple constitutional and legal experts confirm for the VERIFY Team that the House could proceed with such an action in a very short period of time. Typically there are hearings before an impeachment, but our experts said this process could be done in one day if leadership wanted. 

The process would likely hit a wall in the Senate, where a super-majority of Senators is needed to convict and remove a sitting president.

SOURCES:

  • Gary Nordlinger, Political professor at The George Washington University
  • Allan Lichtman, Distinguished historian at American University
  • Hans Noel, Political professor at Georgetown University
  • Article I of the U.S. Constitution
  • Senate.Gov Guidance, "Impeachment"

PROCESS:

Democratic leadership in Congress has renewed their calls for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, following the Capitol breach on January 6 by a mob of Trump supporter.

In response to these calls, the Verify team is looking at what that impeachment process might look like, with less than two weeks remaining in President Trump's term.  

Article I of the U.S. Constitution offers plenty of guidance about the impeachment process. Article I, Section 2 states that the House of Representatives "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment," and that "the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments."

In the House of Representatives, a simple majority is needed to impeach a president, which makes the process a smaller lift than a conviction in the Senate. 

"The Constitution gives the U.S. House sole authority over impeachment," said Allan Lichtman, a distinguished historian from the American University. "The House can convene and in one day vote articles of impeachment against the President." 

Gary Nordlinger, a political professor from The George Washington University agreed. 

"The House can certainly impeach the guy," he said. "It would be yet another record for the only president to ever be impeached twice." 

Hans Noel, a political professor from Georgetown University, said that typically the process would start with hearings in the judiciary committee, to draw up articles of impeachment, although that's not always the case. 

"There is no reason they cannot start directly on the floor," he said. "In 1868, the House voted to impeach Andrew Johnson before they drew up any articles of impeachment." 

If the House votes to impeach a president, the process would then move to the Senate. This process is outlined in the Constitution as follows: 

"The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present."

Noel said that this two-thirds supermajority makes the Senate process the "most significant hurdle" for those who wish to remove the president. Lichtman agreed. 

"They can hold a hearing as quickly as they want (in the Senate)," Lichtman said. "But remember that's not going to happen. There's not going to be Republicans in the Senate agreeing to hold an immediate hearing on the president." 

The final relevant passage of Article I, reads as follows:

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

As explained in this Verify article, this gives Congress the ability to not only remove a president, but also to disqualify him from future office. Congress could also choose remove a president from office without disqualifying them for future office.