A tweet from last week said that Trump, once impeached, would lose his pension, travel allowance, secret service protection, and ability to run again. It got 193,000 retweets. And it’s quite wrong.
Here’s the tweet, the contents of which circulated widely, not just on Twitter, but on other social networks:
To start, Trump was already impeached and none of those things happened — and a second impeachment wouldn’t cause them, either. Technically, the consequences happen only if he is also convicted in the Senate.
But let’s get into it. Would he lose all those things if the Senate votes to convict and remove him?
What Trump loses if convicted
Here I am indebted to the estimable Daniel Dale of CNN, the hardest-working real-time fact checker in the business. As he wrote:
- Trump does indeed lose his government pension ($200,000 per year) if convicted in an impeachment trial in the Senate.
- A president convicted in the Senate can still run for office again. However, the Senate, after having voted to convict, can choose to subsequently bar the convicted president from running again. The conviction takes a two-thirds vote (67 Senators), but after that, disqualifying him from running again takes a simple majority. Impeached judges have been disqualified in this way. Of course, if the Senate does disqualify Trump from running again, he’ll try to take legal action to block it — and Republican appointees are a 6-3 majority in the Supreme Court.
- A 2013 law says that former presidents get lifetime Secret Service protection. However, an earlier law says that a president removed from office doesn’t get certain perks. Experts don’t agree on which law applies in this case.
- If a president has Secret Service protection, he gets no travel allowance. If he has no protection . . . well, that’s uncharted territory. It’s not clear either way.
So it’s way more complicated than the tweet would imply.
The original tweeter Ben Costiloe said that he was just copying something he read elsewhere and deleted the tweet after Dale pointed out the problems with it.
Did you believe this when you first saw it?
If you read this content on social media, did you believe it? Be honest. (I did.)
People believe what they want to believe. This tweet was perfectly tuned to people who want to believe that impeaching Trump will punish him harshly. I am pretty sure that there are congresspeople and senators who believe the things in this tweet to be true right now, and they are about to vote on impeachment.
Consider sources. Mistrust what confirms your biases.
This would happen less often if social media wasn’t designed to reinforce our biases.