Can the Senate hold an impeachment trial after a president leaves office?

Can the Senate hold an impeachment trial after a president leaves office?

The constitution does not forbid it, but it is uncharted territory

PRESIDENT GERALD FORD once remarked that an impeachable offence is “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be”. The constitution defines impeachable offences as “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Most House Democrats believe that President Donald Trump’s incitement of the storming of the Capitol on January 6th more than qualifies. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, declared Mr Trump an “imminent threat” to America’s democracy and constitution. On January 11th House Democrats introduced an article of impeachment alleging that Mr Trump “threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power and imperiled a coequal branch of government”. It charges him with “incitement of insurrection”. The House may vote on the second impeachment of Mr Trump’s presidency as early as January 13th. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has said that a Senate trial could not begin until January 19th, a day before Joe Biden’s inauguration. This timing may seem to undercut the need for impeachment, yet many want to proceed. Why?

Impeachment proceedings have two stages. After the House proposes articles of impeachment, it votes; if a simple majority approves, as it did on December 18th 2019, the president is impeached. Then the Senate holds a trial; if a two-thirds majority votes to convict, the president is removed from office. House Democrats seem to have the numbers: at least 210 have already signed on, with 218 constituting a majority. The Senate is another story.