Assuming a hypothetical US President has been impeached by the House and had the charges confirmed by two-thirds of the Senate:

When does the Vice-President take over? Immediately upon the Senate vote results being declared?

Does the old POTUS need to find a place to sleep that night? Does the custodian of The Football need to run from the President's side to the VP's? Does the old POTUS get to issue any pardons?

This situation would be unlike Inauguration Day. There could be real uncertainty, up until Senate voting closes, as to whether any change would take place.

1 Answer 1


The constitution states

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

This means that the President is president until the moment that the Senate convicts, and is not President thereafter. Until the moment of conviction they have all the usual powers of President, and after they have none.

Details like "where does the convicted President sleep" would be dealt with on a case by case basis. It would be within the powers of the incoming President to authorise the impeached president to spend the night at the White House, until their affairs were in order.

The "nuclear football" goes with the President, but the VP has their own "football" (in case the President is incapacitated in a nuclear attack). The contents of the briefcases containing the nuclear codes would be sorted out in the following days and when a new VP was appointed., but at no time would America not have the ability to fire her weapons.

The impeached President doesn't get to issue pardons after he has been convicted. The incoming President can issue pardons, and can pardon the impeached President for any criminal charges (as Ford pardoned Nixon after the latter's resignation)

The handover of power would be fairly straightforward. Certainly it would a lot clearer than if a President dies in office. After the Kennedy assassination and after the Reagan shooting there were periods of confusion. These were unexpected. During an impeachment trial, the likelihood of conviction could be known in advance.

If a President were impeached and there was a likelyhood of conviction, much of their influence would be lost, and there would be a period during which all their time would be spent on fighting impeachment. They wouldn't be able to advance their policies in Congress (especially against a congress that had voted to remove them from power) They would have all the constitutional rights of President (including the granting of pardons) but little of the influence or soft-power.

  • Formally that's correct; but it's likely that in such an event he would become a lame-duck president. Jun 23, 2018 at 21:03
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    @JamesK And a lame duck is president until he's no longer President. He's still a lame duck. I believe Mozibur's saying that in the span between impeachment and conviction he'd be a lame duck in much the same way. There's not much in the way of constitutional mandates on how quickly and soon the Senate holds its trial, or even how; other than the Chief Justice presiding over a president's impeachment, and the need for a 2/3 majority, the Senate makes whatever rules it wants to. Jun 23, 2018 at 22:07
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    As far as the "football" goes, see my answer over here: The VP has their own football, which is just a communication device, so there'd be no need to "run it over". All that would need to happen is that the President's authentication codes would be invalidated, so they could no longer issue any relevant orders.
    – Bobson
    Jun 24, 2018 at 2:01
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    @MoziburUllah I see what you're saying. I thought you meant a lame duck period after conviction. Yes, a President that was fighting impeachement, and especially one who was likely to be convicted would have a lot of distractions, but see my answer to politics.stackexchange.com/questions/27053/… Clinton continued to be President between impeachment and his Senate trial.
    – James K
    Jun 24, 2018 at 9:44
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    This answer while informative does contain the error that Nixon was impeached, He was not. He may and could have been, possibly but we will never know for sure since he resign before it could happen. The famous pardon is to stop the further prosecution of citizen Nixon since he was no longer president. I must also include that Presidents are above the law from the judiciary and common law enforcement and are only answerable to congress who may convict him for anything they want whether it is a law or not. Jun 25, 2018 at 14:57

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