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The Penalty For Impeachment Is Removal From Office

With President-elect Donald Trump's many brewing scandals — from conflict of interest, to nepotism, and his settlement of a fraud case against Trump University among others — there's already talk of impeachment. If an impeached official is convicted, what is the penalty? The power of the House of Representatives to do more than render whether someone is fit for office is severely limited. Besides, no president has ever been successfully convicted, so there's no real model for what that process might look like. Trump's transition team hasn't responded to Romper's request for comment regarding whether Trump will divest from all businesses in order to avoid many conflicts of interest or whether his case with Trump University could cause issues after inauguration.

First, the basics: According to the Constitution, it's the House of Representatives that brings up charges of impeachment. Article 11, section 4 reads, "The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors," according to the U.S. House of Representatives History, Art and Archives. Impeachment happens when the House of Representatives votes to bring charges against an official, according to the House. After impeachment is brought against the official, a trial is held in the Senate.

No president has ever been convicted after being brought up on impeachment, but according to The House, the Constitutional power of impeachment limits penalties to removing the official from office with an option to ban them from holding a future office.

As Vanity Fair reported, any hope Trump's opponents hold for being able to remove the President-elect from office should remember, impeachment has become as much a political tool as a Constitutional means to protect the country from an untrustworthy leader. President Bill Clinton was brought up on impeachment for lying about an affair, while President George W. Bush's Administration's use of torture was overlooked, according to Vanity Fair. With Republicans majorities in both the House and Senate as Trump takes office, the odds of him facing impeachment by his own party seems like a long shot.

But nothing about Trump has been predictable or followed any kind of historical precedent so far, so it's probably a safe bet that anything can happen. As the Washington Post reported, James Madison defined impeachment as "defending the community against the incapacity, negligence, or perfidy of the chief magistrate," meaning misconduct that violates the public's trust would be enough — impeachment doesn't have to be spurred by an illegal act.

Experts have said Trump is already poised to violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars presidents from receiving gifts or money from foreign governments, according to ProPublica. The only way to remedy that would be to sell off the Trump business, according ProPublica, something Trump has not signaled he's willing to do yet.

Only time will tell if Trump will be accused of behavior egregious enough to draw the ire of the GOP-controlled House. But based on his behavior during the campaign and his transition to the White House, it's not terribly difficult to imagine impeachment could become a real possibility over the next four years — assuming Trump doesn't take the necessary steps to establish himself as a president free from influence.