What Happens If A President Is Found Not Guilty On Impeachment? Here's How It Goes From There
On Wednesday, Feb. 5, the Senate will cast what will likely be the final vote on President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, officially bringing the months-long impeachment process to an end. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Senate is predicted to acquit Trump. So what happens if a president is found not guilty on impeachment? Trump's impending acquittal is likely to impact the 2020 presidential election, but life in the White House won't be too different.
From the moment House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry into Trump back in September 2019, his acquittal by the Senate's GOP majority has been considered likely. Now that Trump is about to be acquitted, however, Americans have questions about happens next. The answer is simple: nothing. Nothing in Trump's administration will change as a result of his acquittal. That's because impeachment doesn't alter or restrict a president's power in the first place, and if Trump is found not guilty of impeachable offenses, everything will go back to business as usual. There is always the possibility Democrats may attempt to impeach Trump again, but they would have to start the impeachment process over from the beginning, and with the 2020 election less than a year away, it's unlikely lawmakers would want to do this.
One possible outcome of Trump's acquittal is that his base will be more energized to support him in the upcoming presidential election, per CNN. Trump is expected to perceive the Senate's acquittal as a form of vindication, and he may harness that to draw more support as his Democratic rivals attempt to unseat him.
The reenergizing effect that Trump's acquittal is expected to have on his base is especially significant given the polarized partisan reactions voters have had during the impeachment process. During the House impeachment vote back in December 2018, all but four members of the House of Representatives voted along party lines to impeach Trump. And on Wednesday, most senators — except for Utah Sen. Mitt Romney — are expected to vote along party lines to acquit the president. A supermajority of 67 senators are required to vote to convict in order for a president to be removed from offie. As a result, many Republicans viewed Trump's impeachment as a partisan attack on the president, rather than an actual indication of wrongdoing. With Trump's acquittal, then, comes the possibility his conservative base will double its efforts to keep him in office for another four years.
Although Trump's powers won't officially change with his impending acquittal, there are other consequences. It is possible, for example, the president will be emboldened by the Senate trial outcome. After all, according to CNN, Democrats attempted to use the most severe check on presidential power available to them — and it failed. At this point, Trump may become even less beholden to the other branches of government, as well as to the Constitution. At the same time, his upcoming acquittal may also give Trump and future presidents license to believe that "abuse of power" isn't a strong enough charge to remove a president from office. Such a precedent ultimately gives the executive branch more power, per The Hill, and undermines the checks and balances system that has long been in place.