President Trump has been impeached, again,
but it appears that his Senate trial will not take place until he has left
office in the ordinary course. That has caused some to question not only the
wisdom of a Senate trial, but also its legality. So, the question presented is
whether a trial in the Senate will be proper, and, if so, will it be in any way
It shouldn’t be surprising that eminent
legal scholars differ on this point.  The Constitution
doesn’t seem to answer the question directly. But although the issue is
challenging the best legal minds, your humble servant will take a stab at it,
hopefully without too much hubris.
What’s more, impeachment proceedings
against a person who has left office has historical precedent. In 1876, William
Belknap, President Grant’s notoriously corrupt Secretary of War, raced to the
White House to hand Grant his resignation just minutes before the House of
Representatives was scheduled to vote on impeachment articles against him. The
House went ahead anyway, and, after the articles were sent over, so did the
Senate, which decided it retained jurisdiction over the matter. As it turned
out, the Senate didn’t convict him, but it wasn’t because Belknap had already
Now the immediate effect of conviction on
an impeachment is removal from office.  That seems
pointless at this juncture, that is, since the Senate isn’t going to try him
before Joe Biden takes office. But there is one other thing that can happen.
Trump can also be disqualified from holding any federal office in the future.
That’s not automatic. But if the Senate decides to go that route, it can, after
conviction, take a further vote on the question. And while conviction itself
requires a two-thirds supermajority, a judgment that Trump is disqualified from
holding further office would require only a simple majority.
So, there is a practical reason to go ahead with a Senate trial on Trump’s impeachment, and there doesn’t appear to be a prohibition against doing so. And inciting a mob to riot at the Capitol seems a sound reason to keep him away from governmental power in the future.