During Tuesday’s impeachment hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, the ever-zany Matt Gaetz, one of Trump’s biggest fans in Congress, had this idea, as reported by Business Insider:
Rep. Matt Gaetz suggested impeaching former President Barack Obama on Wednesday during a hearing in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump …
After questioning the Democratic-invited witness Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor, on her donations to Democratic campaigns, Gaetz suggested “a different” president should be impeached.
“If wiretapping political opponents is a political offense, I look forward to reading that inspector general’s report because maybe it’s a different president we should be impeaching,” Gaetz said on Wednesday.
Gaetz was likely referencing an incident in 2013, when it was revealed that the National Security Agency was monitoring the calls of 35 world leaders during the Obama administration. The White House said at the time that Obama had no knowledge of the wiretapping.
It’s kind of perfect as a reflection of the Republican obsession with Obama and the Team Trump tactic of redirecting any criticism of the president very precisely to his opponents. If the answer to Russian election interference is to confect a case that it was actually Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election, why not deal with the impeachment of the 45th president by firing away at the much-despised-by-Republicans 44th?
It’s insane, but is it even possible? Yes it is, according to some legal experts consulted by Slate back in 2001 when there was, believe it or not, talk of re-impeaching Bill Clinton after his presidency ended for one of his more controversial pardons:
Obviously a former president would not be subject to removal from office, but scholars say that Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution, which says that impeachment may result in “disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States,” could apply. In practical terms, an impeachment would mean Clinton could not serve in any other federal elective or appointive office. Clinton would not have automatic protection against such a proceeding because he was exercising his constitutionally given pardon power. Scholars say abuse of such power can be grounds for congressional action.
Now it’s obviously not going to happen unless at some future point Republicans win super-majorities in both houses of Congress and are still on a vendetta against Obama. But if it did, there might in theory be some other repercussions for a former president:
It is less clear whether a conviction could mean the removal of his pension, government-funded office, and other perks.
My guess is that if Republicans really got serious about retroactive impeachments and had the power to get one rolling, they’d more likely try to impeach Obama’s first Secretary of State, since they cannot “lock her up.”