Explainer: Trump is heading for second impeachment. Here's how it could play out

(Reuters) - U.S. Congressional Democrats plan to introduce misconduct charges here on Monday that could lead to a second impeachment of President Donald Trump, two sources familiar with the matter said, after supporters inflamed by his false claims of election fraud and his urgings to march on Congress, stormed the U.S. Capitol.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

The following is a primer on what a second impeachment proceeding of Trump could look like.

How does impeachment work?

A misconception about impeachment is that it refers to the removal of a president from office. In fact, impeachment refers only to the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress, bringing charges that a president engaged in a “high crime or misdemeanor” - similar to an indictment in a criminal case.

If a simple majority of the House’s 435 members approves bringing charges, known as “articles of impeachment,” the process moves to the Senate, the upper chamber, which has a trial. The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict and remove a president.

Can Trump be disqualified from future public office?

Yes. This consequence of impeachment is specifically mentioned in the Constitution.

Two historical precedents, both involving federal judges, make clear that only a simple majority of the Senate is needed to disqualify Trump from holding future office. Legal experts said this lower standard means Democrats, who will take control of the Senate later in January, have a realistic chance of barring Trump from running for president in 2024 — a possibility he has discussed.

One complication with that plan, however, is that under Senate precedent a vote on disqualification is only held after a vote on whether to convict and remove from office.

Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado, said he believed the Senate would have the authority to vote only on future disqualification. This scenario becomes more likely if Trump’s impeachment trial is still pending on Jan. 20, when his presidency ends, Campos said.

So Trump can be impeached after he has left office?

No court has yet definitively ruled on the matter, but many scholars believe the impeachment proceeding would not be rendered moot by Trump leaving office, since disqualification from future office would remain a potential penalty.

Has a U.S. president ever been impeached twice?

No, but legal experts said it is clearly constitutional for Congress to do so.

Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House in December 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his dealings with Ukraine about political rival Joe Biden, now President-elect. Trump was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate in February 2020.

How quickly could Trump be impeached and removed from office?

Impeachment experts said that, in theory, it could be done very quickly, within days even, because both chambers have wide latitude to set the rules as they see it. But the current rules, which could be revisited, would make it difficult to complete the process in less than a week, Campos said.

“This can be done fast,” said Corey Brettschneider, a political science professor at Brown University.

“One of the defining features of impeachment is that there is no due process requirement, no oversight from the court,” he said.

What “high crime and misdemeanor” could Trump be accused of?

A copy of the measure circulating among members of Congress charges Trump with “inciting violence against the government of the United States” in a bid to overturn his loss to Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

The articles also cite Trump’s hour-long phone call last week with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Trump asked the official to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in that state.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Additional reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Grant McCool