Among all the wildness of American politics, the past several years have also seen, quite literally, half of all presidential impeachments in the country’s history. While things are definitely getting weird in politics (or, should I say, weirder), it also begs the question of what these developments mean in the long run. After former President Donald Trump was impeached twice in his one term in office, you might have some questions — like, do impeached presidents get a pension? Let’s just say there’s a lot of fine print involved.
According to the Former Presidents Act of 1958, presidents who have left office are entitled to a monthly pension provided by the Secretary of Treasury as well as a Secret Service protection detail for them and their family. As of 2021, the annual presidential pension was set at $221,400 (the presidential salary runs a cool $400,000). However, there's a catch: The act clearly states that this only pertains to presidents who have not been removed from office, and explicitly defines "former president" as:
[A person] whose service in such office shall have terminated other than by removal pursuant to section 4 of article II of the Constitution of the United States of America.
In short, presidents who have been impeached and removed would not qualify for these benefits. But, if an impeached president is acquitted and allowed to stay in office, they also keep their pension.
In the impeachment process, the House of Representatives is the first chamber of Congress to vote on impeachment, and technically has the responsibility to impeach the president. If a majority of representatives vote in favor of impeachment, the process moves to the Senate, which according to Article I of the Constitution, has the sole power to "try all impeachment." A conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds majority vote, and a conviction results in an automatic removal from office.
As of 2021, no American president has been impeached and convicted. Including Trump, three presidents have been impeached but not convicted — President Andrew Johnson and President Bill Clinton were both impeached but not removed from office. President Richard Nixon, who resigned before he could be impeached, also remained eligible for his pension.
Trump was the third ever president to be impeached, and the first ever to be impeached twice. During his first trial, Trump faced two articles of impeachment: one for abuse of power, and another for obstruction of Congress. On Dec. 18, 2019, he was impeached by the House for both articles in a 230-197 and a 229-198 vote, respectively. The Senate acquitted him on Feb. 5, 2020 on both counts. On Jan. 13, 2021, Trump was impeached by the House for a second time on charges of incitement of insurrection. But on Feb. 13, the Senate sent Trump an early Valentine’s Day present by casting a 57-43 vote to acquit him (again) on all charges. Although seven Republicans crossed party lines to convict, making it the most bipartisan impeachment vote in history, the now-former POTUS got to settle into his post-presidential life with a nice cushy pension.
Of course, Trump is still estimated to be worth in the billions of dollars, so that $221,400 per year probably isn’t changing too much. Still, nice to know for the next person, right?
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