Can A President Be Impeached Twice? Here's What We Know

Just before going into recess for the holidays, the House of Representatives officially impeached President Donald Trump on Dec. 18 after months of heated debate. In the new year, the Senate is expected to organize an impeachment trial, but it is highly unlikely the Senate's Republican majority will vote to remove Trump from office. As a result, the question on many Democrats' minds is: Can a president be impeached twice? It may be possible.

There are two primary reasons for which Democrats might want to impeach Trump again. The first would be if the Senate acquits Trump and allows him to serve out the remainder of his term. The second would be if House committees uncover additional evidence that Trump committed impeachable offenses beyond those they have already charged him with. In a federal court filing on Dec. 23, House Counsel Douglas Letter stated that the House may want to think about recommending and voting on additional articles of impeachment if their "ongoing investigations into Presidential misconduct" yield any new results. However, Trump has already been impeached, so this wouldn't count so much as a second impeachment as it would a more comprehensive list of charges.

But suppose Trump is acquitted in the Senate and is permitted to run for reelection. If that happens, the House would be able to impeach him again — but they would have to restart the whole process from the beginning. That means that one or more members of the House would need to introduce impeachment legislation, at which point the Speaker would once again need to sign off on impeachment proceedings. From there, House committees would have to hold another inquiry, determine whether the Trump committed impeachable offenses, and approve articles of impeachment against him. After that, the rest of the House would once again have to vote on these articles of impeachment.

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In theory, nothing would stop House Democrats from passing the same articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — over and over again. After all, the Constitution says very little about impeachment, and it certainly doesn't say anything that would stop Congress from impeaching a president more than once. As The Washington Post opinion columnist Paul Waldman pointed out on Dec. 24, the lack of precedent for impeaching a president twice does not make it impossible — especially because only two presidents have been impeached in the past and neither of them was vying to be reelected.

In reality, however, impeachment is a time-consuming, costly process, and it is unlikely that Pelosi would sign off on it for a second time unless she knew for certain that impeachment would result in Trump being removed from office. Even now, Pelosi is thinking about temporarily withholding the articles of impeachment from the Senate until she is certain that the Senate's GOP majority will organize a fair trial. It isn't yet clear how much leverage this would actually give her, in view of the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell isn't in much of a rush to organize Trump's impeachment trial. But what is clear is Trump will most likely be acquitted when the Senate does hold its trial, so Democrats can either decide to impeach him again or try to unseat him during the 2020 presidential election.