Yes, Trump can be impeached, convicted, barred from ever holding office again—even after he’s gone

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has succeeded again in obstructing vital action for the future of the nation. In this case it’s the conviction of Donald Trump, with McConnell refusing to reconvene the Senate to hold the impeachment hearings and conviction vote until after Trump is gone. One thing that will undoubtedly do is spur conservative commentators, and probably no small number of Republican senators, to insist you can't impeach and convict a former president.

Well, you can. At least the legal minds at Just Security say so: "The Constitution provides that the President 'shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,' but it says nothing about the timing of when the impeachment and trial may take place." The Constitution leaves that possibility open, probably for one key reason—to make sure that an official and in particular a president who was convicted of "high crimes and misdemeanors" be barred from ever holding another office.

As Michael Gerhardt at Just Security writes, "the special penalties upon conviction in impeachment are designed to protect the republic from the very type of people who have abused public office in such a grave manner that they should never have the opportunity to be entrusted with public power again." It's almost as if the impeachment statutes were written for Trump. "It would make no sense for former officials," Gerhardt continues, "or ones who step down just in time, to escape that remedial mechanism."

At  The Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin agrees. "Nothing in the text of the Constitution bars impeaching and trying officials who have already left office. Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution indicates that '[t]he President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.'" Further, "Article I, Section 3, Clause 7 says that 'Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.' Notice that the latter is a penalty that can be applied even to an official who is no longer in office."

Michael Stokes Paulsen at The Bulwark agrees, too. "Impeachment is the exclusive method for removing a president from office but nothing in the constitutional text literally limits impeachment to present officeholders. Moreover, it would seem almost absurd to permit a miscreant officeholder to frustrate completely the possibility of receiving the constitutionally contemplated punishment of disqualification from future office by quickly submitting a pre-emptive resignation, hoping to launch a new bid for office in the future."

No, no president has ever been removed from office by the Senate, either during or after his term. But no other president has been impeached twice either. He's setting all kinds of precedent here, so this should be another. You can sure bet that if the Founding Fathers were around now to see what has happened to their government and what was installed in the White House for the past four years, they'd say about impeachment is: "What took you so long?"