Transcript here.

Let’s start with the text of the Constitution, which in article one, section two gives the House the sole power of impeachment when the President commits high crimes and misdemeanors. We exercised that power on January 13th. The President, it is undisputed, committed his offense while he was president. And it is undisputed that we impeached him while he was president. There can be no doubt that this is a valid and legitimate impeachment, and there can be no doubt that the Senate has the power to try this impeachment.

So, the interpretation of the constitution on this point is that the act had to occur when the person was President. The impeachment occurred while they were President. So, the term "President" means anybody who is or has been "President".

But, the Constitution also says:

When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.

Now, the word "President" has a very specific meaning- only the current sitting President. According to comments here:

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an interview on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" on Monday that "it was up to John Roberts whether he wanted to preside with a president who's no longer sitting. ... And he doesn't want to do it."

Aren't these two interpretations contradictory?

  • 3
    Sounds like a better fit for Law, but the constitutionality has been addressed by a majority vote of the Senate twice in 2021 and previously in 1876 – Jontia Feb 11 at 21:15
  • Do you have a source for "the term "President" means anybody who is or has been "President"." ? It's certainly convention (and courtesy) that previous Presidents are referred to with that title, but do you have any source for them counting as a President for legal/constitutional purposes? – Bobson Feb 11 at 21:20
  • @Bobson the source is the House impeachment manager quoted above and the two votes of the senate that affirmed the Senate believe it is constitutional. – John L Feb 11 at 22:25
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    @JohnL - As far as I'm aware, the votes were that it was constitutional to try a former President, and the quote says that it was valid to impeach because Trump was President at the time. Neither one implies that he is still entitled to be considered President for legal/constitutional purposes now that his term is over. – Bobson Feb 11 at 23:31
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    The constitutionality is not strictly bound to whom is presiding over proceedings (until/unless some relevant body, e.g. SCOTUS, decides otherwise). Given the murkiness of Constitution in this regard (when it comes to former presidents), I doubt SCOTUS will wade into the procedural matter (besides the fact that Roberts refused to preside over Trump's 2nd impeachment trial). SCOTUS also gave the Senate wide latitude on how to conduct impeachment trials; see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nixon_v._United_States – Fizz Feb 12 at 8:23

The impeachment by the House of Representatives took place and was passed while Mr. Trump was still President. The impeachment trial by the Senate started after Mr. Trump left office; he is no longer the President. The Constitution does not cover this particular case.

  • 1
    By cover you mean "address," correct? It doesn't specifically address this situation. It's been deemed constitutional in 1797, 1876 & twice this year. When a senate finds a President guilty, he is automatically considered removed from office. Then if they vote to disqualify him from further office, they are voting on a non-sitting President, as Trump is now. – NotPynchon Feb 12 at 8:41
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    There is no precedent on the participation of the Chief Justice in such a circumstance. – David Siegel Feb 14 at 1:02
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    @NotPynchon The Constitution does not cover (address) this particular corner case of who must preside over the impeachment trial of a former President who was impeached while that person was the President. – David Hammen Feb 14 at 10:13

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