The Senate Impeachment Trial FAQ

For the first time in our history, a president has been impeached twice. The question now is, will Trump become the first president to ever be convicted by the Senate?

This past Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted 232-197 to impeach Trump for inciting insurrection. (For you eagle eyed readers, yes, it is an interesting cosmic symmetry that Trump also got 232 electoral votes in his loss to Joe Biden.) 10 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for impeachment.

Here are the big questions as we move forward.

When will the Senate trial begin?

The Senate must convene a trial immediately upon receiving the article of impeachment from the House of Representatives. That said, “immediately” means when the Senate is in session, and right now, the Senate is in recess until January 19. Chuck Schumer used a little known rule to demand that the Senate be brought back into session for this emergency, but without Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s approval, it can’t go forward. And yesterday, McConnell said no. So the earliest the trial could start is on January 19.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has sole discretion to determine when to deliver the article of impeachment to the Senate, so there is always a possibility that she delivers it after January 19.

How many votes are needed to convict?

Two-thirds of the Senators present must vote to convict the president, so if all 100 Senators are present, that would be 67 Senators. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Georgia’s newest Senators, will be sworn into the Senate once Georgia certifies the election, which is expected to happen around Inauguration Day (Jan. 20). Once sworn in, we’d need 17 Republican Senators to vote to convict.

One caveat: The Constitution says that 2/3 of the Senators present must vote. So, if say, a bunch of Senators are sick from COVID and only 90 are in the Senate the day of the vote, then only 2/3 of 90 Senators are needed to convict.

Will any Republicans vote to convict?

That is indeed the big question. Unlike the House Republicans, the Republican Senators seem far more disturbed by the insurrection. Several of them have spoken out forcefully against what happened and are clearly really angry about it. Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski are the most likely to convict, but I’ve seen lists from political reporters that include up to a dozen Senators that they believe could vote to convict, with another dozen in the “maybe” column.

The one person who could change the calculus completely is Mitch McConnell. It has been reported that he is furious. Recall that he tried to stop his caucus from decertifying the electoral votes. He did not want any of the Senators to take part in the House’s ridiculous, and clearly dangerous, stunt. I dislike McConnell more than any other person on the planet, but I recognize that he is an incredibly savvy strategist and politician. The fact that he has started to let it slip that he might vote to convict is HUGE, and will give more members of his caucus room to make a similar decision.

If convicted, will Trump be removed from office?

If a president is convicted by two-thirds of the Senate, he will immediately be removed from the presidency.

What if the conviction happens after January 20?

Well, it looks incredibly likely that Trump will be out of the presidency already at the conclusion of the Senate trial, but if he is convicted after Inauguration Day, he will still deal with some significant consequences. Namely, he’ll lose some of his post-presidency perks, such as his annual pension, access to health insurance, office space and staff. (Source Mother Jones) You may have read that he could also lose his Secret Service detail, but that turns out not to be true.

Additionally, upon conviction, the Senate could also take a separate vote to bar Trump from ever holding federal office again. That vote, would only need a majority of the Senate, not the two-thirds that impeachment would need. This seems likely to me, because McConnell knows the road to the 2024 presidential election will be a LOT easier without Trump in the mix.

Remind me, how do Senate trials work again?

For a primer on how Senate impeachment trials work (like what the oath is, the Chief Justice’s role, what the basic trial process looks like), check out my guide from just prior to Trump’s first impeachment: How Will the Senate Impeachment Trial Work? Your Questions Answered.

If you have any other questions about this upcoming trial, leave me a comment or send me an email. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

Be sure to call your Senators to tell them you expect them to vote to convict Trump if you haven’t already!


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2 replies

  1. Tokyo, no president has deserved to be impeached more than Donald Trump, so says this Independent and former Republican voter. The trial in the Senate will not occur until after the inauguration, although I did hear it might begin that day. I did see where his approval rating has fallen to 29% and 75% want him to disappear from public service. Keith

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