Question rokitit Law

What will happen if Trump is found guilty of a criminal offence in the next few months?

What will happen if Trump is found guilty of a criminal offence in the next few months?

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Answer Internal Staff

To answer this question, an assumption needs to be clarified.

This answer will address the question on the basis that Trump has been sworn into office and is a ‘sitting president’. For criminal charges to be brought in the stages prior to his ascension to the presidency in January, there would be an innumerate amount of constitutional implications that extend beyond the scope of this answer.

So the first question is, who has the power to indict the President?

Power of Arrest

To put it simply, there is not a body within the U.S. that has the power to ‘arrest’ the President. Although there is a degree of debate as to whether U.S. Sergeant At Arms is permitted (United States Senate, no date), no such discussion is worth considering as the likelihood of such an event is too remote.

This however, does not mean criminal charges cannot be brought. An alternate method must simply be employed. The House of Representatives can raise impeachment proceedings when a President has breached S.4, Article II of the U.S. Constitution (Constitutionus.com, 2016). If sufficient evidence supports a successful conviction, the Senate can remove the President from office.

It is important to note that removing a President from office is entirely different from a regular criminal penalty e.g., imprisonment. For regular criminal sanctions to apply, Trump would need to be brought to trial again as an ordinary citizen after the successful impeachment.

Political Reality

An impeachment proceeding has never been successful, as the only two Presidents whom had impeachment proceedings successfully raised against them were later acquitted at the trial conducted in the Senate (History, 2010; History, 2010). If you are wondering, the reason Nixon has not been mentioned is he retired from office prior to the beginning of any such proceeding (Historyplace.com, 2016).

Clearly the Senate is reluctant to remove such an important figure from office, even when their conduct can be considered inappropriate. It is important to consider the international and domestic ramifications of such a decision, as well as the nature of the presidency and the position’s close interrelationship with the parties responsible for any decision making.

To sum, the high-profile nature of the presidency makes it difficult to determine whether Trump could successfully be impeached for his alleged actions. Previous similar situations would indicate that the Senate is reluctant to cause such a drastic upset. However, if Trump were to be removed from office, he could be brought to trial and sanctioned as a regular citizen.

References

Constitutionus.com (25 July 2016) The U.S. Constitution, Accessible at: http://constitutionus.com/ (Accessed on: 10 November 2016)

History.com (2010) President Andrew Johnson Impeached, Accessible at: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/president-andrew-johnson-impeached (Accessed on 10 November 2016)

History.com (2010) President Clinton Acquitted, Accessible at: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/president-clinton-acquitted (Accessed on: 10 November 2016)

Historyplace.com (2000) Presidential Impeachment Proceedings, Accessible at: http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/impeachments/nixon.htm (Accessed on: 10 November 2016)

United States Senate (no date) Sergeant At Arms, Accessible at: http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/sergeant_at_arms.htm (Accessed on: 10 November 2016)