What happens after impeachment?
January 18, 2019 11:15 AM   Subscribe

If a president is impeached he’s immediately removed from office and the VP is sworn in. Is he allowed to pick up personal things from the White House? Given protection like an outgoing president? What about his other properties which I’m sure have confidential information in them? What are the logistics.

I’m sure there’s protocol for outgoing presidents but they weren’t convicted by both houses and had a longer timeline to transition.
posted by geoff. to Law & Government (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

If a president is impeached he’s immediately removed from office

Point of clarification: impeachment just means the person is charged, not forcibly removed from office. Eg Bill Clinton was impeached but that process did not remove him from office.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:22 AM on January 18, 2019 [29 favorites]

A president has never been convicted in the Senate after impeachment was brought in the House, so I'm pretty sure there's no existing precedent. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached but not convicted. Nixon resigned.
posted by WCityMike at 11:24 AM on January 18, 2019 [7 favorites]

Concerning the "protection" angle: According to the Former Presidents Act as it currently stands, all former presidents are entitled to Secret Service protection for life (along with things like a pension, medical insurance, an office, etc.) However, a "former president" is defined as someone who was president at one point and left the office other than via impeachment & trial by the Senate. So if a president resigned before being removed from office by the Senate, he or she would still be eligible for these benefits.

This isn't hypothetical, by the way; a court found that Nixon could retain his protection and benefits because he resigned before he was removed from office. See Page 2 of this PDF.
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:25 AM on January 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

What Happens If Trump Gets Impeached? The Logistics of Removing Presidents From the White House (Julia Glum for Newsweek, on June 10, 2017)
Though eight federal judges have been convicted and removed from office, only two presidents have been impeached, and neither Andrew Johnson nor Bill Clinton were forced out of the White House.

We could look to Richard Nixon's resignation to see how the timeline of a Trump removal might go, though it's important to note that the former left voluntarily in the wake of the Watergate scandal, which occurred when he attempted to cover up a break-in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Nixon told his successor, Gerald Ford, of his plan to step down at 11 a.m. on Aug. 8, 1974, the Times reported. At 2:20 p.m., the press was alerted that Nixon would be speaking later that night, and at 7:30 p.m. Nixon met with several leaders of Congress to let them know about his decision.

At 9:01 p.m., Nixon went live on TV and radio and said he was resigning effective at noon the next day. He did so at 11:35 a.m. the next day, and Ford was formally sworn in at 12:03 p.m. on Aug. 9, 1974. Nixon boarded a helicopter to Andrews Air Force Base, got on Air Force One and flew home to San Clemente, California.

Between Nixon telling the public about his resignation and him actually leaving the White House, fewer than 15 hours elapsed. The time between his official resignation and Ford's swearing-in was about 30 minutes, so in a more modern case where a successor—say, Pence—was prepared to step up, we could expect a relatively quick turnaround.

When dealing with Trump, though, all bets are off.
Given that Nixon resigned, perhaps we should look at some of those eight Federal judges (Ballotpedia), but I haven't found a blow-by-blow of what happened after either of the two most recent Federal judges were impeached (2009: Samuel B. Kent; and 2010: Thomas Porteous).

And I think a lot of what happens next depends on if the impeached individual lashes out, or if they retreat with some sense of dignity. As Julia Glum wrote, it's all bets off with Trump.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:28 AM on January 18, 2019 [7 favorites]

Well, no president has ever been removed from office via impeachment. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached, but were acquitted in the Senate. Richard Nixon would probably have been impeached and convicted, but he resigned before that could happen.

So probably, nobody knows. The Constitution doesn't spell out every little procedural detail explicitly. Many parts of the government function based on precedent rather than anything more official. In this case, there is no precedent. So I imagine they'd have to figure it out as they went.

I assume the powers that be would try to make it as smooth a transition as possible, to avoid political chaos and civil unrest. They would be at pains to make the process look as official and dignified as they possibly could.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:28 AM on January 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I should have clarified convicted by the Senate. Nixon is a bit of a bad example as far as I’m aware resignation is completely different from conviction and he wasn’t legally kicked out of office.
posted by geoff. at 11:37 AM on January 18, 2019

There is a blizzard of activity in the White House Residence leading up to and on the morning of Inauguration Day when the Oval Office changes hands, and I assume some of that protocol would come into play once a date and time were fixed. Who would fix it, I don't know.

The Fords did not immediately move into the White House, as I recall. Jacqueline Kennedy and her children remained in the White House a few weeks after the assassination, but that was a vastly different situation.
posted by jgirl at 11:53 AM on January 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Fords stayed in Alexandria for 10 days to allow the Nixons time to move out of the White House. (link is to a National Park Service site and is currently busted, likely because of the shutdown; text comes from the search result)

Bear in mind that the Vice President also has an official residence and office space and suchlike, so it's not like he's telling his buddy Daryl "Sorry, man, I gotta crash on your couch through the weekend because the ex-President can't find a van."
posted by Etrigan at 1:46 PM on January 18, 2019

I vaguely remember a cable news discussion about this in the Clinton era. IIRC:
- Security clearance, unescorted access to the West Wing, classified-access areas and military transport would end immediately upon conviction. West Wing would be swept for classified materials before he could go back to get his effects.
- Access to WH residence would continue at the pleasure of the incoming president. Congress would likely quickly pass a bill to provide some kind of Secret Service protection and other limited benefits as the now ex-pres would still know classified things and be a kidnap risk.
- Ex-pres would likely get a Secret Service secured, government vehicle final lift home courtesy of the incoming president.
- When the time comes, ex-pres would get something like, but below a full state funeral.
- In Trump's case, because he is familiar with hotel guest tradition, Congress would likely have to legislate a specific upper bound to the type and amount of WH swag he could legally steal on his way out. :-)
posted by zaixfeep at 1:47 PM on January 19, 2019

Also, classified papers are never left lying around in any non-hardened location in his absence. Military and Secret Service sweep before and after, wherever he goes.
posted by zaixfeep at 2:07 PM on January 19, 2019

Congress would likely quickly pass a bill to provide some kind of Secret Service protection and other limited benefits as the now ex-pres would still know classified things and be a kidnap risk.

On the other hand, major-party presidential candidates also know classified things (they have truncated-but-still-classified security briefings to ensure not only that they're as up to speed as possible even before the election, but also that they don't spill info that they think they're just speculating about), and they have zero Secret Service protection after they lose the election. Mitt Romney tells a story about how he arrived at his election night party in a convoy of a dozen vehicles, surrounded by professional bodyguards armed and wired to the teeth, and he was driven home by one of his sons with no one else around.
posted by Etrigan at 8:13 PM on January 19, 2019

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