Fact check: No, impeachment itself would not ban Trump from a 2024 presidential run

Even a Senate vote to remove Trump would not prohibit him from running in 2024; for the Senate to ban him from the presidency, it would have to hold an additional vote on this question.

ByDaniel Dale, CNNWire
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
House Democrats introduce Articles of Impeachment against Pres. Trump
Elizabeth Schulze reports on the situation in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON -- A viral tweet claims that impeaching President Donald Trump for a second time would mean he would lose the ability to run for president in 2024.

That's not true. Nor are other claims in the tweet.

The tweet was posted on Friday, two days after a Capitol insurrection by a mob of Trump supporters sparked a new impeachment push from House Democrats. As of early Monday, it had more than 181,000 retweets and 725,000 likes. It says the following: "For those wondering if it's worth impeaching him this time, it means he:

1) loses his 200k+ pension for the rest of his life

2) loses his 1 million dollar/year travel allowance

3) loses lifetime full secret service detail

4) loses his ability to run in 2024"

Facts First: The tweet is inaccurate in multiple ways.

1) Trump would lose his post-presidency pension only if both the House voted to impeach him and then the Senate voted to remove him from office; impeachment itself, without removal, would not result in Trump being denied any benefits.

2) The law makes clear that presidents who have lifetime Secret Service protection never get a $1 million travel allowance.

3) It is unclear that Trump would lose lifetime Secret Service protection even if the Senate voted to remove him and prohibit him from running.

4) Even a Senate vote to remove Trump would not prohibit him from running in 2024; for the Senate to ban him from the presidency, it would have to hold an additional vote on this question.

National Geographic photographer Louie Palu documents the siege inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6.

The post-presidency pension

Trump would not lose his pension if the House impeached him for his role in inciting the insurrection -- just as he didn't lose his pension when the House impeached him in 2019 over his effort to use the US' relationship with Ukraine for his own political ends. Rather, under the Former Presidents Act, he would lose his pension only if the Senate voted to convict him and remove him from office.

Lots of average citizens use the word "impeachment" to refer to impeachment and removal, so we're not bashing Costiloe for this common error, but the statement is incorrect.

Presidents who have not been impeached and removed are entitled to a lifetime pension equivalent to the annual salary of a head of an executive department. For Trump, like predecessor President Barack Obama, that would indeed amount to more than $200,000 per year.

Running in 2024

Neither a second House impeachment nor even a Senate vote to convict Trump and remove him from office would prevent him from running again, in 2024 or beyond.

Rather, after two-thirds of senators present voted to remove Trump, a simple majority of senators present would have to approve an additional vote to bar him from the presidency in the future.

The Senate could not skip the conviction-and-removal vote that requires two-thirds of senators and go straight to the simple-majority vote for future disqualification, Ross Garber, an impeachment and political investigations lawyer who teaches at Tulane Law School, told CNN.

There is at least some uncertainty about the disqualification issue, since no president has ever been removed from office by the Senate and only judges have been disqualified from future office. The disqualification language in the Constitution is "disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States"; Garber noted that no court or Congress has ever settled the question of whether the presidency counts as an "Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States" from which the Senate is able to ban an impeached and convicted person. (Garber said he personally thinks the presidency does count.)

"Unfortunately, we can now add Jan. 6, 2021 to that very short list of dates in American history that will live forever in infamy," said Sen. Chuck Schumer. See how things escalated in our minute-by-minute video as chaos erupted.

Secret Service protection

Would Trump lose Secret Service protection if he was removed from office? It is not clear -- to us or to two legal experts we consulted, law professors Stephen Vladeck and Josh Blackman.

There are two relevant laws that use different language on who counts as a "former president."

One law, the Former Presidents Act we mentioned earlier, specifically says that a president who gets booted by the Senate does not count as a "former president" for the purpose of certain post-presidency perks.

However, another law signed by Obama in 2013, the Former Presidents Protection Act, simply authorizes lifetime Secret Service protection for former presidents -- without defining "former president" in any particular way.

It is not clear which definition the federal government or the courts would use when it came to deciding whether an impeached and removed Trump should get lifetime Secret Service protection. (The Secret Service did not respond to a request for comment.)

In summary, the tweet was too definitive on a point that is very much up in the air.

Travel expenses

Trump was not certain to get a $1 million travel allowance in the first place. In fact, the travel allowance -- technically, a security and travel allowance -- is only for former presidents who are not getting lifetime Secret Service protection. An official from the office of a former president confirmed to CNN that the former president they work for does not have access to a $1 million security and travel allowance.

In other words: under normal circumstances -- if Trump finished out his term as scheduled and then accepted the lifetime Secret Service protection he would indisputably be entitled to in that case -- there would be no $1 million security and travel allowance for him.

The story of the tweet

When we called Costiloe to tell him that we were planning a fact check and that much of the tweet was inaccurate, he said good-naturedly: "Tear it a new one. Go for it, baby." He said he is "nobody," a man who lives with diabetes in Texas and did the tweet because he had seen the information pop up somewhere on his Facebook feed and "it made me feel good."

He said he was never sure the content was correct and was amazed the tweet went so viral. He said he had only 200 Twitter followers at the time he posted it.

"I don't want to mess up the world. I just wanted to make me feel good," he said. "It turns out it made a lot of people feel good."

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