Can President Bush Be Impeached After He’s Gone?

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9 Responses

  1. Sean M. says:


    I am surprised you missed what seems to be the most obvious reason to support late impeachment. Impeachment does not only remove an official from office. Impeachment may also include the punishment of “disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.”

    Thus, even if the President is out of office, Impeachment can still arguably reach him to disqualify him from holding any office under the United States in the future.

  2. Brian Kalt says:

    Sean, I mentioned disqualification twice:

    “In addition to being removed from office, convicted impeachees can also be disqualified from holding office in the future, and while it is unlikely that Martin will ever work in government again anyway, his foes would still like to brand him with this mark of shame.”


    “Congress might feel the urge to punish the ex-president as only it can, such as disqualifying him from future office.”

    I’ll also be all over it when I get into the legal arguments in my next post.

  3. TJ says:

    I’m still not over the “why bother” point. Your main policy point seems to be that a president who is not subject to impeachment and conviction after leaving office would have greater incentive to misbehave at the end of his term. But is there a real consequential difference? In the absence of post-retirement impeachment, the likely result for a misbehaving president is exposure, shame, and ridicule, which results in a practical bar to qualifying for office in the future. In the presence of post-retirement impeachment, the likely result for a misbehaving president is exposure and conviction, which results in shame, ridicule, and a legal bar to qualifying for office in the future. Does a conviction by a political body that has absolutely no practical consequence really attach that much more “shame” than exposure of the merits of the misbehavior?

  4. Brian Kalt says:


    A fair point. It certainly explains why those contemplating late-impeaching Nixon (and various judges whose cases faded out when they resigned) didn’t go through with it.

    Here’s my attempt at a response.

    First, exposure, shame, and ridicule is not as big a practical bar as you might think. Belknap rehabilitated himself quite well. Even Nixon did, to a degree. And what about Alcee Hastings, who was impeached and convicted, but elected to Congress (both because the Senate did not disqualify him and, more importantly, because a seat in Congress is not an “office” for these purposes anyway)?

    Second, there is the value in the public investigation, airing of the evidence, and accountability. There is a real difference to me between allowing someone to fade away and discovering and forcing him to answer publicly for his misdeeds.

    Third, there are the potential collateral consequences relating to retirement benefits that I mentioned.

    Fourth, Congress might be more concerned with its prerogatives and with the precedent that the case sets than with the fate of the particular offender. If resignation eliminates Congress’s jurisdiction over an impeachment, then the president could single-handedly prevent Congress from deciding whether certain presidential conduct is impeachable or convictable conduct. That seems odd.

    Keep in mind that I don’t think these factors would line up very often. Impeachment is rarely appropriate, and late impeachment even more rarely so. I would never argue otherwise. But the difference between “rarely” and “never” is big enough that I think it is still worth discussing. It was discussed when Nixon resigned, and briefly after Clinton pardoned Marc Rich. It might come up again some day, and if enough members of Congress think it is worthwhile to proceed, it’ll be nice to have analyzed the legal issues comprehensively, outside of the heat of that moment.

  5. Sean M. says:

    Brian: Touche and my mistake. It is what I get for not reading in depth.

    Looking forward to the next installment in the series.

  6. ParatrooperJJ says:

    It is not even definite that a former president could even be criminally charged.

  7. J Price says:

    Hi Brian…I don’t even pretend to know all this political “B.S.”…(jargon); but I do know that it’s not right for anyone to be above the law; especially a President or even an “EX”. Why should we let them get by with countless murders, all in the name of a war …that wasn’t even sanctioned by our United Nations!…All because he’s all that and a bag of chips????? Maybe if we took his whole presidental retirement away and truely prosecuted them after they finished thier terms, maybe they would think harder about hat they deceide for the American People to begin with.

    I must say when I heard that there was a chance that Bush was going to be maybe spending some jail time, I did get a little to happy. After reading what you had to say…I must take a step back and just wounder “if” I truely want to understand our American politics. It seems the voting is rigged, unless it was a for real blow out; as this last election was won.It sure doesn’t feel as (it’s for the people and by the people.)I’ve always thought that the “White Man” made this wounderful mess that we are in…and I also beleive that if these “White Men” hadn’t felt the need to (capture), more voters they felt would sway the Oval Office thier way,that the Black men and much later on, women of all color, would not ever had been allowed to vote. After all it’s alway’s been what men want…especially the White one’s. I truely feel that if let be, our new president will show what he can do for our United States, of the not so free. Call me crazy, but I just don’t see to many “White” men letting, a very intelligent, extremely swave man; with a great sense of knowledge in his head and just maybe could give this wonderess USA the pride we all want to have in ourself’s,

    once again… to live to see it come true for not just us US citizen’s…but for those that mean the most to him..His daughters and the grandbabies of the future generations of not just his…BUT ALL OF OURS…if he could only live. While other’s such as our recent ex-pres walks away with not only ever tax payer’s monies lining his pockets; but scott free from any crimal crimes that he has out right made…but what do I know?

  8. Charlene Y. says:

    The man is the office right now is doing more damage to this country than all the former presidents together.

  9. Iago says:

    If an ex-prez cannot be impeached because the guy is no longer holding office, then why is he still called “Mr. President” by all and sundry?