President Trump faces a challenge to staying in power through the last day of his term, Jan. 20 with an impeachment effort picking up momentum on Capitol Hill and the possibility of Vice President Pence and members of the Cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment for his removal.
What could Trump lose if he doesn’t complete his term? Possibly a lot, depending on how and when he leaves. While a U.S. president being removed because of impeachment has never happened and would raise unprecedented legal questions, here are answers to some questions about what could happen.
What perks do ex-presidents receive?
According to the National Taxpayers Union, the government spends about $4 million a year in various perks and subsidies for the four living ex-presidents.
Those perks include:
- pensions equal to the annual pay of a White House cabinet member ($221,400 in 2021)
- starting six months after leaving office, a governmental allowance for an office, staffing and equipment;
- reimbursed travel expenses of up to $1 million annually for the ex-president and up to two staffers; spouses are allowed to $500,000 for travel;
- lifetime security services provided by the Secret Service;
- health benefits through the government’s Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, but only if they had five years of federal employment (Trump, like Jimmy Carter, would not qualify with only four years of civilian service);
- funerals with full honors and the option of being buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Would Trump lose those benefits if impeached and convicted?
Probably, though maybe not all of them. Under the Former Presidents Act of 1958 (FPA) that created many of the ex-presidential perks, presidents removed by impeachment are ineligible. But the NTU noted the 10-year limit on post-presidential Secret Service protection was increased to lifetime protection in 2013 and the statutory language did not include the prohibition on benefits for impeached and removed former chief executives.
Notably, the FPA only makes convicted presidents ineligible – impeached but not convicted presidents remain eligible. And with its language that presidents still get benefits if they leave office “other than by removal” through the U.S. Constitution’s impeachment clause, it is unclear a convicted but a post-White House Trump would lose perks.
Would Trump lose benefits if he resigned before being removed?
Probably not. The Congressional Research Service in a 2016 report noted the precedent of Richard Nixon, the only president to resign from office. “Following a 1974 precedent set by the Department of Justice concerning President Richard Nixon’s resignation from office, however, a President who resigns before his official term of office expires would be entitled to the same lifetime pension and benefits that are authorized for a President who completes his term. Former President Nixon, therefore, did receive a pension and other benefits,” the report said.
Have lawmakers looked at changing post-presidential perks? Yes.
The Presidential Allowance Modernization Act, sponsored by Georgia Republican Rep. Jody Hice and passed in the House in October 2019, would limit the pension to $200,000 annually, with cost-of-living allowances and cut the allowance for office space and staff, phasing it out for every dollar an ex-president earns above $400,000. The Congressional Budget Office expects most future former presidents will meet that threshold and the bill would save $2 million over four years. But the act would apply to future ex-presidents, and thus not affect Trump.
Will Donald Trump get a presidential library?
Maybe. Every president since Herbert Hoover has had a presidential library, intended to be a repository for their official papers and a center for scholarship. But the building of the libraries is paid for by private and non-federal sources and their operations funded in part by endowments, which Trump would have to raise money for. “Once completed, the private organization turned over the libraries to the National Archives and Records Administration to operate and maintain,” according NARA’s website.