This viral tweet about impeachment is full of lies

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.

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  1. When I saw that on FB a couple of days ago I fact-checked it and came to similar conclusions as you present here – it seems like an obvious thing to do.

  2. I, too, checked these facts, which seemed overly punitive, but I didn’t share this post with my usual caveats. Good thing, because apparently FB is upping its monitoring game. I think bots are checking posts without also checking any accompanying caveats: A friend was scolded for using the phrase “doggie dad.” I was scolded for a post I prefaced with a caveat days ago. The platform also appears to be vetting posts before I click “share,” telling me about the reliability of the original post and where to get more info, to wit:
    “This post mentions COVID-19. For info and resources, go to the COVID-19 Information Center.
    Originally from people.com
    Registered more than 10 years ago
    First shared January 2021.”
    Thanks for this post.

  3. Even though we went through this just last year, I think people tend to think of impeachment as a unit. Impeachment = the vote in the House + conviction in the Senate. Lazy thinking, yes, but I’m sure that’s one of the problems at work here.

  4. I saw it but I don’t believe much anymore. I did respond that he would still get a presidential library, and it would be spectacular – very successful. And the Democrats were going to pay for it.