House impeaches Trump: What happens next and when the Senate could hold a trial


The House has impeached President Trump again — here’s what that means.

Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/CNET

After more than two hours of debate that at times grew heated, the House of Representatives on Wednesday passed an article of impeachment that charges President Donald Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the deadly riot at the US Capitol on Jan. 6. The siege sought to overturn the 2020 election results confirming Biden as the nation’s next president but failed, and Biden’s presidency was confirmed by the joint session of Congress the same day. 

“We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection — this armed rebellion — against our common country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor, prior to the vote. “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

The House’s adoption of the impeachment article on Wednesday, in a 232 to 197 vote, followed the House formally calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove the powers of the presidency from Trump. Right before the vote, the vice president sent Pelosi a letter saying he would not invoke the 25th Amendment, writing it “would set a terrible precedent.”

With the 25th Amendment no longer a viable option, the House’s move to impeach was one avenue at its disposal to attempt to hold Trump accountable for actions that many critics say are tantamount to sedition against the US government.

Read more14th Amendment enters Trump impeachment conversation

While the article had broad support among House Democrats, 10 House Republicans also voted for impeachment, breaking rank with the Republican line. Eyes now turn to which Republican senators may vote to convict. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is reportedly leaning toward voting against Trump, believing the president committed impeachable offences, the New York Times reported. The Washington Post said Wednesday that McConnell remains undecided.

Sens. Pat Toomey and Lisa Murkowski have also expressed support for Trump to step down, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy may seek a different avenue, on that favors the significantly milder censure over impeachment.

Trump lashed out Tuesday ahead of the impeachment proceedings as “causing tremendous danger,” while also characterizing his speech to the Jan. 6 crowd as “totally appropriate.” Shortly after the House’s impeachment vote, Trump posted a video from the White House focused on encouraging an end to all violence amid reports there could be armed protests planned in Washington D.C. in the lead-up to the inauguration. He did not address his impeachment.

Trump has reportedly considered using his presidential power to attempt to pardon himself, but is not expected to resign. Pence or Biden would not be able to pardon Trump if he were impeached — only if he resigned.

We’ll explain what could happen to Trump now that he is impeached, what the timeline could look like now and where the situation stands. This story has been updated with new information.

Read moreCould Trump pardon himself before leaving office? What to know

When will Trump’s impeachment trial take place?

Now that the House has voted to impeach, the appointed House managers will present the article of impeachment to the Senate, an act that will activate a trial in the Senate. Pelosi signed the article of impeachment at 6:00 p.m. ET, but did not answer questions on when she will submit the article for trial.

The Senate is scheduled to return to work Jan. 19, and there is “no chance” the Senate will complete its trial prior to Biden’s inauguration, McConnell said in a statement following the impeachment.

“Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office,” McConnell said. “In light of this reality, I believe it will best service our nation if Congress … focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power.”

There can either be a trial now, or a trial after Jan. 19, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said. “But make no mistake, there will be in an impeachment trial.” Schumer added that if the president is convicted, there will be an additional vote “on barring him from running again.”

The House could decide to delay sending the indictment to the Senate until after the Biden administration makes headway on Senate approval on Biden’s cabinet nominees and vaccine distribution. Biden has pledged to get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots into people’s arms in his first 100 days in office.

Biden and McConnell have reportedly discussed a “bifurcated” Senate session after inauguration, which would split the chamber’s time between confirmation hearings for Biden’s cabinet selections and Trump’s impeachment trial, numerous outlets reported. Biden has said it’s up to Congress to decide whether Trump should be impeached. 

Republicans who said they would vote to impeach

Republican House members began to announce they would vote to impeach on Tuesday. The first statements came from House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney — daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney — and Reps. John Katko, Adam Kinzinger, Fred Upton and Jaime Herrera Beutler. On Wednesday, Rep. Dan Newhouse also tweeted that he would vote to impeach Trump. For the final vote, 10 Republicans voted in favor of the resolution to impeach.

“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said in a tweeted statement Jan. 12. “The president could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States.”

Alternatively, some House Republicans are pushing to censure the president instead of impeach him.

What happens if Trump is convicted?

Now that the House has voted to impeach, the process moves to the Senate for a trial supervised by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Normally, the conviction of a sitting president at such a trial would result in the president being immediately removed from office. With just days left, Trump would likely finish out his term (more on this below) but the Senate can additionally vote to remove the right to run for a second presidential term or for “any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States,” according to the Constitution (Article 1, Section 3). 

A president impeached in the Senate may also be disqualified from the benefits given to former presidents in the Post Presidents Act, including a pension and yearly travel allowance.

What has to happen in order to impeach a sitting president

A president, along with other officers, can be impeached for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” according to Section 4 of Article 2 of the US Constitution. To impeach, a total of 216 votes are required from the House of Representatives — a simple majority plus one. A trial is then heard in the Senate, where the US chief justice presides. A full two-thirds of the 100 senators must vote to convict.

Impeaching a president is typically a lengthy process involving months of inquiries and investigations, but House Democrats intend to speed up proceedings and bring the articles of Impeachment to a floor vote.

Here’s the short version of the general procedure:

  • The House of Representatives votes on levying impeachment charges against Trump.
  • If the article of impeachment is passed by the House, it presents the article to the Senate, which must hold a trial.
  • The House prosecutes and the Senate sits as jury. The Supreme Court’s chief justice presides. 
  • Trump has an opportunity to present a defense.

Here are some unknowns:

  • Can the impeachment process, if begun before inauguration, lead to a trial and conviction after Trump is no longer president? Some legal experts say yes. Others say no.

Wasn’t Trump already impeached during his presidential term?

Yes. Trump was impeached in December 2019 by the House. However, the Republican-majority Senate acquitted him at the beginning of 2020, with the process marked by a record number of tweets from Trump disparaging the impeachment effort.

His previous impeachment involved articles accusing Trump of abusing power and obstructing Congress. On that occasion, the issue was Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, including a July 2019 phone call in which he appeared to be using US military aid as a bargaining chip to pressure Ukraine into investigating alleged ties between his political opponent Biden, Biden’s son Hunter, and a Ukrainian gas company. The articles also charged Trump with interfering with a House inquiry into the Ukraine matter.

CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt and Rae Hodge contributed to this report.

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