Law Professor: Trump Has Room to “Challenge” a Post-Presidency Impeachment

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Wednesday made it official: Donald Trump has become the first president to ever be impeached twice. But with the Senate out of session until January 19, he will almost certainly be out of office before his trial begins. In an interview with Fox News, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said there is still significant debate between experts on whether or not it is valid to hold such a trial after a president has left office.

“We are well into the land of the unknown,” Turley said of the impeachment process. “It is going to get even more bizarre once the president leaves office. You will be trying to remove a president who has already left. It’s like grounding a plane that’s landed and can’t take off again.”

Turley said that this bizarre situation will give Trump plenty of room to challenge the trial’s validity in court.

“A former president can argue in court that he is no longer subject to impeachment,” Turley explained. “The impeachment provision refers to the purpose as the removal of the president. The added penalty of barring him from future office is something that occurs after conviction and removal. And there’s a long-standing debate as to whether a former official can be impeached.

“This is one of the few impeachment issues that actually could be resolved by the courts,” he continued. “If they did impose this penalty in a type of retroactive impeachment, the president would have standing to challenge it and a court could rule on it.”

The idea of impeaching and convicting a president who is already out of office may sound like a twisted use of government power, but Democrats insist it’s important, both to send a message to future presidents and to block Trump from ever running for president again.

But there are critics of the impeachment who are even more certain of its doomed status than Turley.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Michael Luttig said the entire scenario is unconstitutional.

“Once Trump’s term ends on Jan. 20, Congress loses its constitutional authority to continue impeachment proceedings against him — even if the House has already approved articles of impeachment,” he wrote. “Therefore, if the House of Representatives were to impeach the president before he leaves office, the Senate could not thereafter convict the former president and disqualify him under the Constitution from future public office.”

We don’t doubt that Democrats have practical reasons for wanting to go through with this, but it mostly smacks of pandering to their voters. Lord only knows what this party is going to do once they don’t have Trump to beat up on anymore. Half the reason for their entire existence these last four years is heading out the door. They’re looking for any avenue they can find to keep the excitement a-rolling.

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