This feels similar to a few questions already asked but isn't exactly the same, so I don't believe it is an exact duplicate.

Can a first term US President resign prior to a possible or pending impeachment, allowing the Vice President to finish the term, and the then resigned former-President continue campaigning for a second term, win and be re-elected and thus avoid impeachment for activities under the first term due to double-jeopardy or some other legal technicality?

  • 3
    The similar questions all have answers pointing out that double jeopardy does not apply to impeachments. Why would asking a slightly different question about impeachment lead to a different result with respect to double jeopardy and impeachment?
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 18:24

3 Answers 3


The standards for impeachment are pretty wide open and up to the House (and then the Senate), so I don't see any statutory contrary reason or restrictions to them taking up the same issues in this kind of scenario.

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.

..... The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

.....The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

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. While a President could resign and run again (more on that to follow), there's nothing magical about doing so that would prevent Congress from looking at his/her behavior, when they were President (as opposed to an argument about prior vs in-office behavior). The fact that the President took an intentional break to avoid consequences would not be a compelling argument that would make them seem more fit to hold the office.

US Constitution

From a more practical standpoint, I find it hard to believe that an ex-President who resigned in disgrace under a cloud to avoid formally being tossed would have any kind of viability as a candidate, either in the general election, or even in the primaries. There is the whole stink of the disgrace, but it wouldn't play well even for brain-washed cult-of-personality-followers, if that was the ex-President's base, because, if that ex-President was in the right, the resignation would signal a capitulation to the "enemy," an admission that the ex-President was not in the right, which would make the followers wrong by association, for their blind allegiance to that person. This would put a damper on the enthusiasm of that person's base of support, for sure, just from having to eat crow on social media or on comment sections of Internet news stories.

So, while theoretically possible, there's nothing to suggest it would shield that person from facing the same issues, again, and less to suggest they'd be in a position where it would matter.

  • I would say that if the make up of congress was different, Trump would certainly be the candidate most likely to sucessfully pull off this gambit. That said, Trump is the first President who was impeached in his first term in office... typically it happens after the second term (in the one case where the President could run again, Impeachment could have had a hand in his lack of a third term... but so would tradition.)
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 17:23
  • @hszmv - I guess I'm probably also assuming that if it's bad enough for a President to resign, that won't be helpful for the party in the next election cycle, either. Good points, though. Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 17:53
  • 1
    Impeachment is a weird beast with the voters and it's so rarely done that it's hard to say there's any scenario that can be assumed.
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 18:21
  • As resignation would probably be seen as an admission of guilt, I don't think it would be a good idea
    – Pliny
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 16:26

Can a first term US President resign prior to a possible or pending impeachment, allowing the Vice President to finish the term, and the then resigned former-President continue campaigning for a second term, win and be re-elected ...


... and thus avoid impeachment for activities under the first term due to double-jeopardy?

No. Double jeopardy doesn't apply to impeachments.

Even in criminal cases where double jeopardy does apply, it only applies after an acquittal or after a case is dismissed with prejudice (or under certain other circumstances where double jeopardy is said to have "attached"). By analogy with criminal procedure, double jeopardy would not have attached in the scenario you describe.

But, to reiterate the first paragraph, that doesn't matter because double jeopardy does not apply to impeachments.

  • +1 for pointing out that double-jeopardy doesn't apply where no resolution has been rendered in the original charges. Indeed, resigning to avoid impeachment would be avoiding the charges being formally leveled. Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 14:30

The short answer is: it depends on the composition of the new Congress.
Each Congress is sovereign, and is not bound by decisions of a previous one. So even if the current House and Senate are inclined to impeach and convict, the new Congress might not. That scenario is not likely, but if you had a popular President and unpopular House (many of whom were turned out in the next election), then it could happen. But in that case, the President might be better off politically if s/he stayed in office and fought. If s/he quits, that spares the Representatives and Senators from having to vote. Quitting also does not spare him/her the use of one of the two allowed elections to the office.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .