What next now that Trump has been impeached again?

The US House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump yesterday for a second time – just days before he is scheduled to leave office – raising questions about what happens next.

The House voted 232-197 to impeach the president, with ten members of Mr Trump’s Republican Party joining 222 Democrats.

Here are some of the possible scenarios after the House impeached Trump for inciting last week’s attack by his supporters on the US Capitol as Congress certified Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory:

Senate trial

Now that Mr Trump has been impeached, it is up to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to submit the article of impeachment to the Senate at a time of her choosing.

The Senate would then hold a trial.

That’s what happened last year after Mr Trump was impeached in 2019 by the Democratic-controlled House for pressuring the leader of Ukraine to dig up political dirt on Biden.

Mr Trump was acquitted by the Republican-majority Senate in February 2020.

This time, however, Mr Trump has only a week left in the White House and Mr Biden is to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on 20 January.

The Senate is currently in recess and is not scheduled to return until 19 January.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could call the Senate back early and hold an emergency session – but Mr McConnell ruled that out.

Even if the Senate did move “promptly,” there is no way it could conduct a trial before Mr Biden is inaugurated and Mr Trump leaves office, Mr McConnell said in a statement. 

“Given the rules, procedures, and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachment trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week,” he said.

Mr McConnell noted that the three previous presidential impeachment trials had lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days.

Mr Schumer, in a statement welcoming Mr Trump’s impeachment by the House, said that regardless of when it starts “make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate.”

“Donald Trump has deservedly become the first president in American history to bear the stain of impeachment twice over,” Schumer said. “The Senate is required to act and will proceed with his trial and hold a vote on his conviction.”

Post-presidency trial?

While three US presidents have been impeached, none has ever been tried by the Senate after leaving office.

All three previous presidential impeachments – those of Mr Trump and presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton – occurred while the leaders were still in the White House.

Like Trump, both Mr Johnson – in 1868 – and Mr Clinton – in 1998-99 – were impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.

Some constitutional scholars argue that an ex-president cannot be tried by the Senate.

But the House has impeached and the Senate has tried former senators and judges after they were no longer in office or on the bench.

If a trial begins after 20 January, Republicans would no longer hold a majority in the Senate and Mr Schumer would be the majority leader.

While no longer in control of the Senate, Mr McConnell would continue to have a powerful voice among his Republican colleagues and he has not ruled out convicting Mr Trump.

“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” Mr McConnell said.

The Republican senator from Kentucky thwarted the last bid to convict Mr Trump in the Senate, managing to rally all Republican senators, with the exception of Mitt Romney of Utah, to vote for acquittal.

But Mr McConnell believes Mr Trump did commit impeachable offenses, according to press reports, and sees an opportunity to rid the Republican Party of the real estate tycoon once and for all.

A two-thirds majority of the senators present is needed to convict the president, meaning that if all of them are in the chamber at least 17 Republicans would have to join Democrats in voting for conviction.

Mr Schumer said the Senate will not only vote on convicting Mr Trump for “high crimes and misdemeanors” but will also hold a vote that could bar him from running again for federal office. 

Mr Trump has expressed interest in potentially running for president again in 2024 and a simple majority vote of the Senate could bar him from another White House run.