Fact check: Trump loses several perks only if there's an impeachment conviction by Jan. 20

Devon Link, USA TODAY
·8 min read

The claim: If President Trump is impeached again, he loses many post-presidency perks

On Jan. 13, President Donald Trump became the only U.S. president to be impeached twice. Even before that, Americans took to social media to deliberate what this could mean for Trump after he leaves office Jan. 20.

“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,” Ben Costiloe tweeted Jan. 8. He didn't respond to USA TODAY's request for comment. The tweet has since been deleted.

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Costiloe wasn't the the only social media user to wonder what an 11th-hour impeachment could mean. The same day, a Facebook user shared a screenshot of Costiloe’s tweet and upped the stakes.

"And, if he is successfully impeached (found GUILTY), he loses giving two aids (his kids) one million each for a yearly travel allowance, and loses his wife’s yearly travel allowance of half a million a year, and loses years of paid rent, and a furniture allowance, for a personal office, and he also cannot be buried in Arlington Cemetery. #ImpeachTrumpNow,” Lara B. Sharp wrote.

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Both posts get some repercussions of an impeachment correct. However, Costiloe fails to mention that revocation of these benefits is contingent upon the Senate convicting Trump before his term is up, and Sharp lists several benefits that are not affected by impeachment.

Sharp declined to comment.

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Impeached and convicted presidents are not eligible for post-office perks

The Former Presidents Act of 1958 stipulates that presidents are entitled to a pension, government-paid staff, government-paid office space and furniture, a $1 million annual budget for security and travel and a $500,000 annual budget for their spouse’s security and travel after leaving office.

Presidential pensions equal the annual salary of the head of an executive department, such as the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense or Justice. That is roughly $200,000, or half of the presidential salary.

The FPA describes a former president as someone who held the office and “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,” which spells out impeachment and removal from office.

This provision means that if Trump is impeached, convicted by the Senate and removed from office before the end of his term, he is no longer entitled to these post-presidential perks.

The House's case for Trump's impeachment will go to the Senate for trial.

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Paul Campos, a constitutional law professor at the University of Colorado Law School, stressed that the possible revocation of benefits heavily depends on the timing of a Senate conviction.

"Note that all of this happens ONLY if he is removed on or before next Wednesday (Jan. 20)," Campos wrote in an email to USA TODAY.

"The short answer is that the President's benefits are disallowed only if he is removed as a result of impeachment," Devin Schindler, assistant dean and professor at Western Michigan University Law School, wrote to USA TODAY. "Given that the Senate will not be meeting until January 19, the President's term will not end with impeachment. Accordingly, Congress have to pass a new law to eliminate the benefits.

"There’s a yearly travel allowance for the president and the staff he employs, and he would lose that (if he is convicted before Biden's inauguration)," he wrote.

The Former Presidents Act does not award a separate $1 million annual travel allowance to aides, as the social media post claims, Campos confirmed to USA TODAY.

The Senate has never convicted an impeached president or former president.

In February 2020, Trump was impeached in the House and acquitted in the Senate, maintaining his eligibility for benefits after leaving office.

Impeached presidents can still get Secret Service protection

The provisions in the Former Presidents Act do not revoke an impeached president's right to Secret Service protection or Arlington National Cemetery burial.

A 1962 law grants presidents Secret Service protection "for a reasonable period after he leaves office." A 2012 amendment to the law extended that protection to former presidents and their spouses for a lifetime and their children while they are younger than 16.

"Secret Service protection is provided by another statute (than the FPA), and would not be affected by impeachment and removal without further action by Congress," Campos told USA TODAY.

President Donald Trump leaves after placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Veterans Day 2020 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
President Donald Trump leaves after placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Veterans Day 2020 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Arlington burial is subject to eligibility

When USA TODAY inquired about impeached presidents' eligibility for Arlington National Cemetery burial, media officer John Harlow shared the federal regulation governing Army cemeteries and eligibility for interment.

It says "any veteran who served on active duty (other than active duty for training) and who held" the office of the "President or Vice President of the United States" is eligible for interment at Arlington National Cemetery.

Trump never served in the military and is ineligible for Arlington burial, regardless of impeachment or conviction. He received four student draft deferments and a medical exemption, so he was not drafted during the Vietnam War.

Of the eligible U.S. presidents, only two, William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy, are buried at Arlington.

Senate decides eligibility to run for office again

According to the U.S. Constitution, the House of Representatives has the “sole Power of Impeachment,” and the Senate has the “sole Power to try all impeachments.” Since the House of Representatives impeached Trump, it is left to the Senate to convict him with a two-thirds vote.

If the Senate votes to convict Trump, it can decide whether he is eligible to run for office again. An impeached and convicted president is ineligible for office if the Senate decides so in a simple majority vote, according to the U.S. Constitution.

"If Trump were convicted in the Senate, the Senate could take a separate vote to disqualify him from 'any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.' That includes the presidency," University of Missouri School of Law professor Frank Bowman said in an email to USA TODAY.

The Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., acquitted President Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment Feb. 5, 2020.
The Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., acquitted President Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment Feb. 5, 2020.

The Republican Party will hold a majority in the Senate until the victories of Georgia runoff winners Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, both Democrats, are certified. According to Georgia law, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has until Jan. 22 to do so.

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Our ruling: Partly false

We rate the claim that impeaching President Donald Trump during his final days in office will prevent him from employing post-presidency perks PARTLY FALSE because it is only partially supported by our research. Social media posts accurately list several post-presidency perks that could be revoked if Trump is impeached and convicted. They fail to explain that this revocation depends on Senate conviction before his term ends Jan. 20. Eligibility for future office is determined by separate Senate vote, and conviction will not negate Trump's right to Secret Service protection. The posts inaccurately claim there is a separate $1 million annual travel allowance to Trump aides and that Trump was ever eligible for Arlington National Cemetery burial.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Donald Trump loses presidency perks if removed by Jan. 20