One possibility if Congress isn’t able to remove Trump from office before January 20 is to bar him from ever running for national office again. (Trump has said he may run again for president in 2024.) The Senate has barred three people, all federal judges, from holding future office: West Humphreys (in 1862, for waging war against the U.S.); Robert Archbald (in 1913, for corruption); and Thomas Porteous (in 2010, for bribery and perjury). All those have been done by votes of a simple majority.
Making the rounds of the Sunday talk shows this weekend, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn even suggested that the House hold off sending impeachment papers to the Senate for at least 100 days to let the Biden administration do the important, pressing work (including dealing with the coronavirus pandemic) facing it in the months ahead. “Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running, and maybe we will send the articles sometime after that,” Clyburn said on CNN.
Constitutional experts differ on whether impeachment and conviction can take place after a president leaves office, but it does seem to be a possibility. One precedent that has been cited repeatedly in the past few days is that of the former war department secretary William Belknap, who resigned in 1876 after being accused of bribery but was still impeached by the House and tried by the Senate after leaving office. (The House vote was unanimous in favor of impeachment, but the Senate ultimately acquitted Belknap on all five articles when each vote fell short of the needed two-thirds majority.) “Once an impeachment begins in the House, it may continue to a Senate trial. I don’t see any constitutional problem with the Senate acting fast or slowly,” Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, recently told NBC News.
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