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Suppose Congress successfully impeaches and removes a sitting President of the USA. Can this person still run for a second term?

Assuming the usual rules about term limits are observed, of course.

  • 3
    At the very least, once impeached and removed from office, it wouldn't be "re-election" as much as "election for a second time, with an intervening term" – abelenky May 19 '17 at 16:48
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    @ColinZwanziger If you quote an article from the Constitution to back up the claim that Congress can do that, I think you've the core of an answer. – Sjoerd May 19 '17 at 17:50
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    @abelenky Re-election as in "winning two elections in a row." Besides, no matter how it's called by lawyers, I think the purpose of my question is clear. – Sjoerd May 19 '17 at 17:57
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    @ColinZwanziger Then let's hope someone else knows the answer. – Sjoerd May 19 '17 at 18:02
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    @Sjoerd, most election laws I'm familiar with (which vary state-by-state) specifically prohibit someone who is not in office (has been impeached) to campaign for "Re-election". (see pdc.wa.gov/learn/publications/political-advertising-guide, section search for "Re-Elect") – abelenky May 19 '17 at 18:31
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Answer: During an impeachment trial, the Senate can "disqualify" an officeholder from holding any public office again, but that is a separate vote from their "removal".

Article 1, Section 3, Clause 7 of the Constitution says (emphasis mine):

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.

At first glace I assumed this meant that someone who is removed by impeachment is therefore automatically disqualified from holding office, but case law shows this is not how that has been interpreted:

Since ratification, four troublesome questions have arisen under this clause. The first was whether the Senate may impose the sanctions of removal and disqualification separately and, if so, how. The Senate claims that it may impose these sanctions by separate votes: (1) removal, involving the ouster of an official from the office he occupies at the time of his impeachment trial, and (2) disqualification barring the person from ever serving again in the federal government. In 1862 and 1913, the Senate took separate votes to remove and disqualify judges West Humphreys and Robert Archbald, respectively. For each judge, a supermajority first voted to convict followed by a simple majority vote to disqualify. The Senate defended this practice on the ground that the clause mentioning disqualification does not specify the requisite vote for its imposition, although Article II, Section 4, mentions removal as following conviction. The Senate in 1862 and 1913 considered that the supermajority requirement was designed as a safeguard against removal that, once satisfied, did not extend to the separate imposition of disqualification.

So the Senate has the power to vote separately on removal (by supermajority) and/or disqualification (by simple majority), but the one does not imply the other.

You can see this in the current US Senate overview of the impeachment process (PDF):

The Senate may subsequently vote on whether the impeached official shall be disqualified from again holding an office of public trust under the United States. If this option is pursued, a simple majority vote is required.

So yes, an impeached and removed President could still run for office, unless he or she was also explicitly disqualified by the Senate (or was ineligible for other reasons, like term limit exclusions).

EDIT: To be clear, you can be removed without being disqualified, but you can't be disqualified without being convicted/removed.

According to the official PROCEDURE AND GUIDELINES FOR IMPEACHMENT TRIALS IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE:

Following the Vote on Each Article, the Presiding Officer Pronounces the Decision. Once the Judgment of the Senate has Been Pronounced on the Articles of Impeachment, the Trial Might Progress in Two Ways. If the Respondent Was Found Not Guilty on All Charges, the Verdict of Acquittal Was Announced and the Senate Sitting as a Court of Impeachment Adjourned Sine Die. If the Respondent Was Found Guilty of Any of the Charges, the Judgment of Removal and Possible Disqualification From Ever Holding an Office of Trust or Profit Under the United States Was Presented

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    Is the POTUS an "Office of honor, Trust or Profit?" It's an elected position, not a nominated position. The case laws seem to be about Judges, which are not elected. – Sjoerd May 19 '17 at 20:39
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    Good question, but the emoluments clause in Article 1, Section 9 uses very similar phrasing: "no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust...", and seems to apply to the President. I'm going to say POTUS is an "office of Trust", and appointed positions (cabinet positions) are "office of Profit". I'll see if I can find a better reference. – BradC May 19 '17 at 20:45
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    @Sjoerd honor, trust, and profit say nothing about how the office was attained. Yes, the presidency is such an office. Brad: you're creating needless distinctions. All of those offices are offices of both trust (responsibility) and profit (salary), at least, and probably honor (you get a seal and a flag and a spot in the order of precedence, etc). – phoog May 19 '17 at 20:49
3

Impeachment is actually just the first step in the process, and the relevant implications at that stage are political in nature (i.e. reputation, trust, etc.), not legal. Congress approving "Articles of Impeachment" is the equivalent of a Grand Jury finding sufficient cause for a trial — which is obviously quite different from being found guilty. And to date, only two U.S. Presidents have been impeached, and neither one was was convicted by the Senate and removed from office. The relevant ramifications are still political in nature, but it's fair to assume that their political career (and probably their personal reputation as well) are dead in the water.

You do raise a very interesting question of whether there are additional legal implications beyond removal from Office if a sitting President is convicted. The process itself is wholly political in nature as the Attorney General’s office has historically viewed it to be unconstitutional to indict a sitting President on criminal charges because it would keep the executive branch from performing its job. Once they leave the White House, they could still face criminal charges, however Presidents tend to have influential friends who can keep them out of trouble by affecting a Presidential Pardon from their successor.

Even in the unlikely event that a President is subsequently convicted of a crime, there's nothing that inherently bars them from running again — unless it is specifically stipulated that they're barred from holding office (either in a Senate ruling or as part of a criminal sentence). The Constitutional framers trusted the democratic process and intentionally left this in the hands of the Senate and the American people.

  • Only the constitution may prescribe qualifications for the Presidency. There is nothing in the constitution that says a person convicted of a felony and even currently serving time for such cannot be elected President; therefore such an individual could be elected, sworn in, and then pardon himself or herself. Only a Senate vote to disqualify someone may prevent that person from becoming President if the constitution does not itself do so. Specifically, the courts have no power to impose such a restriction by way of a criminal sentence. – Ken Clement Jun 11 '18 at 22:36
  • I'm not quite sure how this differs from the answer I gave – Chaya Cooper Jun 12 '18 at 2:10
  • Mostly around the notion that it is "unconstitutional to indict a sitting President on criminal charges". It is more ineffective than unconstitutional. Nothing in the constitution specifically exempts the President from indictment or even trial. But a sitting President could order his executive departments to not enforce any order of arrest and to file no charges in the first place and can in any case pardon himself (The constitution only prescribes that the President may not pardon impeachment convictions). – Ken Clement Jun 21 '18 at 17:26

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