| USA TODAY
The claim: Impeachment cost $33 million
On Feb. 13, President Donald Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached and acquitted by the Senate twice. Congress’s unprecedented move to hear Trump’s impeachment trial after he’d left office drew sharp criticism from Republicans who called the action political and unconstitutional.
In the days surrounding the proceedings, many social media users criticized these impeachments as irresponsible government spending and pushed an unsupported and exaggerated price tag to make their point.
“How can an impeachment cost $33 million when all involved are already salaried servants?” reads one Facebook post.
“Boy, that 33 Million that was spent on the impeachment sure would help a bunch of small businesses right now…” claims another widely shared image.
The post does not specify if it is referring to Trump’s first or second impeachment. Regardless, estimates for the cost of both impeachment proceedings put the price significantly lower than $33 million.
USA TODAY reached out to several social media users who posted this unsupported claim for comment.
“Our politicians weren’t acting in the best interests of ‘We the People’ when they demanded an Impeachment, not once, but twice,” replied Tony Hawes Jr. “We should be able to send them the bill. Garnish their wages. Remove it from their bank accounts.”
Trump was impeached twice
Democrats introduced articles of impeachment on Jan. 11, on the charges that Trump incited an insurrection when he sent an angry mob to the Capitol building on Jan. 6. The House voted to impeach him on Jan. 13.
In 2019, the House voted to impeach Trump on Dec. 18 on charges of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for requesting that Ukraine investigate his political opponents. On Jan. 21, 2020, the Senate began hearing the charges and acquitted Trump on Feb. 5.
Unofficial estimates for the price of 2019 House impeachment are much lower
The Congressional Budget Office does not have an official estimate for the cost of either impeachment proceeding.
After Trump’s first impeachment, online misinformation exaggerating its cost led several reporters and think tanks to estimate the cost in the House. Here’s what they found:
Yahoo! Finance reviewed similar false claims that Trump’s impeachment cost $40 million in January 2020. It reported that the proceeding cost taxpayers nothing because congressional salaries are paid regardless of what is on the agenda. Yahoo! Finance estimated that Congress members and their staff were paid about $11.5 million from their predetermined salaries for the 33 days they spent impeaching Trump. This total made up merely 0.00026% of the federal budget.
Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation put the price much lower at $3.06 million for the salaries of House members, House staffers and six lawyers.
Roll Call placed the cost of the House Impeachment inquiry at $1.83 million. Roll Call stressed that this cost was minimal compared to other congressional investigations, such as President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial that cost nearly $80 million.
Expert says impeachment proceedings cost less than $33 million
Although there are no estimates for the cost of Trump’s second impeachment or either Senate trial, experts told PolitiFact they cost far less than $33 million.
“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much the impeachment cost,” Steve Ellis, president of the nonprofit Taxpayers for Common Sense, told PolitiFact. “But I sincerely doubt it was anywhere close to $33 million.”
Trump’s first impeachment investigation was headed by the House Judiciary Committee, so it didn’t cost taxpayers additional money because all funds came from the existing congressional budget. The second impeachment proceeding was much shorter than the first and did not include an investigation, indicating it was likely much cheaper than the first.
USA TODAY could find no reputable estimates that put the cost anywhere near $33 million.
Cost of Mueller report
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 election totaled $32 million. This included salaries and expenses for prosecutors, analysts and agents.
Mueller completed his report on March 22, 2019, without reaching a final conclusion on whether Trump had committed a crime and illegally worked with Russia to sway the 2016 election. The report and its expenses were unrelated to either impeachment proceeding.
It is possible this figure has been conflated with the cost of impeachments.
Our rating: False
There are no official estimates for the cost of either of Trump’s impeachments, however, unofficial estimates of the cost of the first impeachment’s House proceedings and experts indicate it likely cost much less than $33 million. Congressional salaries are paid regardless of what is on the agenda. We rate the claim that Trump’s impeachment cost $33 million FALSE because there is no evidence to support that estimate.
Our fact check sources:
- USA TODAY, Feb. 13, “Senate acquits Trump in historic second impeachment trial over Capitol riot“
- USA TODAY, Feb. 9, “Impeachment: Republicans say ex-President Trump can’t be tried but many experts disagree“
- USA TODAY, Feb. 9, “Top takeaways from Day 1 of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial“
- USA TODAY, Jan. 11, “Democrats officially introduce impeachment article; Republicans block 25th Amendment resolution“
- USA TODAY, Jan. 13, “5 takeaways as the House impeaches Trump for second time“
- USA TODAY, Dec. 18, 2019, “House impeaches Donald Trump in historic vote, reshuffling U.S. politics on eve of 2020“
- USA TODAY, Feb. 5, “President Trump acquitted on both impeachment charges, avoids removal“
- Yahoo! Finance, Jan. 3, 2020, “This Is How Much of Your Taxes Were Spent On Impeachment Last Year“
- Fox Business, Feb. 13, “How much will Trump impeachment trial cost?“
- Roll Call, Jan. 31, 2020, “Cost: How much is impeachment?“
- PolitFact, Feb. 19, “Trump’s second impeachment did not cost $33 million“
- Yahoo! Finance, Dec. 20, 2019, “Trump’s impeachment has been cheaper than Clinton’s“
- USA TODAY, Aug. 2, 2019, “The final bill for former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry: $31. 7 million“
- USA TODAY, Mar. 22, 2019, “Special counsel Robert Mueller delivers report marking end of investigation into Trump’s campaign, Russia”
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