Our current late-stage-composting pumpkin POTUS is one of four presidents who have been the subject of formal impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives. There have been other demands for the impeachment of many presidents, yet only three: Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon (before the House could vote on the impeachment resolutions, resigned from office), and William Jefferson Clinton, have faced formal impeachment inquiries, and the Senate convicted none of them. None of those three sought reelection.
After Johnson’s acquittal, he was denied his party’s nomination for president. Because of the 22nd Amendment, which says a person can only be elected to be president two times for a total of eight years, Nixon and Clinton were in their second terms already and could not run for reelection.
At the time the Constitution was ratified in 1788, its writers regarded impeachment as an improvement over the hangings and beheadings used in Europe to get rid of corrupt rulers. But, they still recognized the dangers that impeachment would present.
In 1788, Alexander Hamilton (someone should write a Broadway musical about him) wrote:
“It will agitate the passions of the whole community and divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases, it will connect itself with preexisting factions and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or the other.”
The Founders smartly defined and regulated this dangerous power. They gave the House of Representatives “the sole Power of Impeachment” and specified that the Senate “shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments”, with a two-thirds majority required for conviction. If convicted in the Senate, Rapey von Tinyfingers could not be pardoned by the newly sworn-in, wait for it— President Michael Pence, because the Founders thought of that too. But, they only required that an impeached and convicted president ‘be removed from office’ and did not mandate that the person also be disqualified from holding future office.
The Constitution does not define the standards for disqualification, and through history, the Senate has declined to establish a standard. Senate procedures require separate votes to convict a president of an impeachable offense and to impose a disqualification penalty. So, they could vote to remove him office, but decline to vote to disqualify him from running again.
Our current president could possibly be impeached and convicted, and still be re-elected in November 2020.
Given the timing of an impeachment vote in the House and then a Senate trial presided over by Mitch McConnell, a verdict could be rendered after the primary elections this coming spring, or even between Election Day in November and the inauguration in January 2021. This would leave the nation to discover if a president removed from office could legitimately take the oath of office again. As President Sniffles tweeted: “…it could cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal“.