Would President Donald Trump lose lifetime benefits if impeached? No, that's not true: To lose such benefits, he'd also have to be convicted and removed from office. Impeachment is a process. The House of Representatives first votes on articles of impeachment. If a majority of members votes to impeach, the question moves to the Senate, which holds a trial. If at least two-thirds of senators find the president guilty, he is convicted and removed. The Senate must convict for the president to lose lifetime benefits, such as a pension.
The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) published by "Being Liberal" on January 8, 2020. The post included a screenshot of a tweet and a message that read: "Let's talk about the fiscal implications of impeaching Trump. It's a good deal for America." The tweet read:
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
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Jan 11 16:27:11 2021 UTC)
The tweet, and by extension the post, makes the common mistake of confusing impeach with convict. To impeach means to accuse or charge. Think of impeachment by the House of Representatives as an indictment, which may -- or may not -- lead to conviction. Only with conviction would penalties apply. The tweet gets ahead of itself. It confuses the consequences of impeachment with the consequences of a president actually being removed from office. They aren't the same.
Here's how impeachment works: The House must first vote on one or more articles of impeachment. If a majority of members votes to impeach, the question moves to the Senate, which holds a trial. If at least two-thirds of senators find the president guilty, he is convicted. The penalty of such a conviction is removal from office.
The process is explained in detail on the Senate website, which states that the Senate also has the ability to disqualify a convicted impeached official from holding public office. Here's an excerpt from the site:
The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict, and the penalty for an impeached official upon conviction is removal from office. In some cases, the Senate has also disqualified such officials from holding public offices in the future. There is no appeal. Since 1789, about half of Senate impeachment trials have resulted in conviction and removal from office.
In the whole of American history, just three presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Trump. None was removed from office. The latter two are or currently will be eligible for benefits as defined by the Former Presidents Act.
That law, which can be seen here, outlines the benefits that former presidents are entitled to, including a pension. It does also provide former presidents with up to $1 million a year for travel and security expenses, but that's only if the former president is not receiving lifetime Secret Service protection. The post is not clear on that point. Additionally, on the subject of Secret Service protection, it's worth mentioning that there is a separate law, known as the Former Presidents Protection Act, which authorizes the Secret Service to protect former presidents for their lifetimes.
While that law does not have language that clearly excludes presidents who have been removed as the result of an impeachment trial, the Former Presidents Act specifically states that benefits are only available to presidents "whose service in such office shall have terminated other than by removal pursuant to section 4 of article II of the Constitution of the United States of America." That section deals with impeachment.
In other words, lifetime benefits -- as defined by the Former Presidents Act -- are not available to presidents who have been removed from office as the result of an impeachment trial. If Trump were convicted by the Senate and removed, he would not receive such benefits. Also, it would then be possible for him to be banned from holding office, though that's not automatic.
Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, argued in favor of impeachment in the Los Angeles Times, stating that "impeachment and conviction would prevent Trump from ever menacing our country again through an elected position." He wrote:
Our article of impeachment specifically provides for 'disqualification to hold and enjoy any office.' And removal through impeachment would strip Trump of taxpayer-funded benefits like a pension, health insurance, office space and staff.
Lead Stories reached out to Lieu's office to ask about purported penalties. A spokeswoman confirmed that the Senate would have to convict in order for penalties to take effect, reiterating the main point of this fact-check: If Trump is impeached, he won't lose lifetime benefits. He would lose them, however, if he is impeached, convicted and removed from office.