WASHINGTON — QUESTION:
Is this tweet that claims that President Trump would forfeit former president benefits if impeached, accurate?
- Allan Lichtman- distinguished professor of history- American University
- Brian Kalt- professor of law- Michigan State University
- Congressional Research Service-"Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits"
- 3 USC §102. (note)- Former Presidents Act
- 18 U.S. Code § 3056
What does President Trump have to lose if he is impeached just days before president-elect Biden's inauguration? One viral tweet contends to answer that.
It says that "For those wondering if it’s worth impeaching him this time, it means he 1) loses his 200k+ pension for the rest of his life 2) loses his 1 million dollar/year travel allowance 3) loses lifetime full secret service detail 4) loses his ability to run in 2024.”
Heather C. from Riverdale, Maryland reached out to the Verify team asking us if it's true. So we're verifying whether this tweet on what President Trump stands to lose is accurate.
Our sources are the Former Presidents Act, a Congressional Research Service report, American University history professor Allan Lichtman and Michigan State University Law Professor Brian Kalt.
Both our experts agree, the tweet’s wording is off: impeaching the President alone would not strip him of benefits. He would have to be impeached and convicted by the Senate.
That comes straight from 3 USC §102, called the "Former Presidents Act," which entitles those who serve as presidents to things like a pension, an office space, office staff and money for travel and security.
But a former president removed by impeachment wouldn’t qualify for that.
"It defines 'former presidents,' the people entitled to these things, as anyone whose term in office ended by some means other than being impeached and removed," Kalt said. "In other words, if his term ends on the 20th at noon, he gets these benefits under current law. If he resigns he gets them too."
So if the Senate tried and convicted President Trump, he wouldn’t get a pension, travel fund or other benefits. But our experts both agree, he would still get security.
Brain Kalt pointed our Verify researchers to another US code, which grants security detail to all former presidents and spouses (unless they get remarried) for life.
Allan Lichtman said that a recent amendment to the Former Presidents Act restored Secret Service protection.
"Actually two votes, that the Senate could take: one is conviction and the other is barring him from running for any federal office including the presidency,” Lichtman said. "So indeed if he is convicted in the Senate, it is virtually certain that they'll also bar him from ever being eligible to seek the presidency."
According to Lichtman, this has never happened before.
Kalt agrees that Congress can ban a convicted president from taking the presidential office again, but says there's an argument that might allow him to.
"If he's impeached and convicted and the Senate votes after a conviction, separately, to disqualify him, then he would be ineligible to serve in an office of honor, trust or profit under the United States," Kalt said. "There's some debate as to whether the presidency counts as one of those offices."
So we can Verify, impeachment alone wouldn’t strip President Trump of any of these benefits, he would also have to be convicted. Our experts say the president gets to keep his security detail.