Court martial is similar to a civilian trial. It’s a legal proceeding for military members and mostly used in serious offenses such as felonies.
The U.S President, though a civilian, is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Therefore, most people believe the president can be court martialed like any other military member.
Here’s what you should know about the possibility of the president getting court martialed in the army.
Can The President Be Court Martialed?
No, the president cannot be court martialed. Here’s why.
The US president may be the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, but he or she is still a civilian.
Article II, section 1 of the constitution states that a sitting president is not drafted; enlisted in or inducted into the armed forces. Thus, he’s not subject to court martial or any form of discipline in the military.
Therefore, the president can’t be court martialed. The military doesn’t have the constitutional powers to do such.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) states that the military can only persecute military members in active service, and not the president.
The president holds the highest office in the land, and by virtue of that, controls the military.
We’re in a democratic setting. Therefore, the president will retire as a civilian, not as military personnel. But while in office, the United States President has the powers to command the army and navy (The president has full control over them).
Can The US Military Remove A Sitting President From Office?
The United States President is democratically elected not appointed. In other words, he or she wasn’t appointed as other members of the military.
On the other hand, the military didn’t hire the president to serve them. It’s constitutional for the president of the United States of America to command the army and navy while in office.
Now, let’s go back to the question.
Can the United States military remove a sitting president from office? The simple answer is no! The military doesn’t have the power to court martial or fire the president from office. It can only happen when a coup occurs and succeeds.
Here is how a president can be removed from office, according to the constitution.
The president and vice president, including other civil officers can be impeached according to the constitution. And this impeachment isn’t done by the military, but the lawmakers.
Article I, section 2 of the United States constitution empowers the House of Representative members to impeach the president. Then Article 1, section 2 also empowers congress to try all impeachment in the House of Representatives.
However, according to Article 1, section 3, two-third members of the house are what the lawmakers need to impeach a sitting president, vice president or civil officers.
What Crimes Can Get A US President Impeached?
It’s not easy to impeach a president. It is a long process. And even when the House of Representative members impeaches a president, the Congress might overturn their decision.
We have seen that happen in Donald Trump’s case. He was impeached at the House of Representatives, but the impeachment proceedings didn’t see the light of day when it got to congress.
The House of Representatives issued two articles against President Donald Trump. He was impeached for crimes such as obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. Congress acquainted Donald Trump on February 5, 2020. Note that he was impeached for the second time one week before his tenure expired.
Here are crimes that can get a sitting president impeached:
- Other high crimes and misdemeanor
A Handy Tip: The constitution didn’t specifically state what the high crimes and misdemeanor are. The scope of these crimes could be broad.
In Trump’s case, you can see that obstruction of congress and abuse of power were recognized as impeachable crimes.
Must The President Of The United States Have Prior Military Experience?
The United States Constitution clearly indicates the requirements candidates must have to contest for the highest office of the land. And none of those requirements includes having military experience.
In other words, one can become president without military experience. And once elected, the person without military experience becomes the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
The president has total control of the army and navy, as we have previously mentioned. And he or she doesn’t need to possess past military experience nor undergo military training to lead the army and navy.
Previous US presidents have all served in the army or navy, in one capacity or the other. That’s why many are assuming that military experience is compulsory for presidential candidates. Well, that isn’t the case.
We have had numerous presidents with military experiences though, and we have equally had one without military experience, in the person of Donald Trump.
Donald Trump was the first United States President with no prior military experience. He also didn’t have any prior government experience.
Here are past US Presidents that had the privilege to serve in the military in diverse capacities.
U.S. President With Prior Military Experience:
Here are past U.S. Presidents with prior military experience.
1: George Washington (1789 – 1797):
George had rare leadership skills that showed that he was destined for the top. He became the leader of all Virginia troops at 23, and he was appointed as a Major General and Commander in Chief of the continental army from 1775 to 1783.
George served in these capacities during the Revolutionary War, and when the war ended, he returned home and was unanimously elected as the United State’s president in 1789.
2: Thomas Jefferson (1801 – 1809):
Jefferson is another US President that served in the military before being elected into office. He served as colonel in the Virginia militia during the Revolutionary war.
3: James Madison (1809 – 1817):
Like Thomas Jefferson, Madison served as colonel in the Virginia militia, during the Revolutionary War in America. Unfortunately, he couldn’t participate in the war because of his poor health status, but that didn’t stop him from having an impact as a leader.
James Madison’s leadership skills despite his earth status caused him to achieve political success in Virginia, his hometown. Then he went on to win the presidency.
4: James Monroe (1817 – 1825):
James Monroe served in the continental army as major from the period of 1775 to 1178. He almost lost his life at the Battle of Trenton in 1776, when he came across heavy artillery fire.
Fortunately, James Monroe survived the incident and he was later made captain by George Washington.
5: Andrew Jackson (1829 – 1837):
Andrew Jackson served in various capacities in the US army. He was a major general in the army, the United States Volunteer Army, including the Tennessee Militia.
He became a major general in the Tennessee Militia in 1802. And what’s more, he didn’t have any major military experience prior to his appointment as major general.
James Andrew was nicknamed “Old Hickory” by his troops because of his strictness and toughness in the battlefield. And this propelled him to political success after the war. He served in both US congresses, in addition to becoming the president of the United States of America.
6: William Henry Harrison (1841):
William Henry Harrison is another former US President with military experience. He served in the army from 1812 to 1814.
William led the Kentucky Militia during the war that took place in 1812. He left the army in 1814. He later became the president of the United States of America, and he holds the record of the president with the shortest term.
William died 31 days after his term as president began.
7: John Taylor (1841 – 1845):
John Taylor was captain of a Virginia-based Militia in 1813, which was dissolved after two months when the group didn’t fight the British soldiers in Richmond.
John Taylor entered politics at 21 with the help of the Virginia governor who also happens to be his father. He later became the president, though spent nine days as vice president.
8: James K. Polk (1845 – 1849):
James had a short stint in the U.S. military precisely in 1821. However, he was praised for his accomplishment which involved extending the United States territory down west in the Mexican-American War.
U.S. Presidents With No Prior Military Experience
Donald Trump wasn’t the only past U.S. President without military experience. Here are other past presidents before and after him that didn’t have any stint in the military before taking up the highest office in the land.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
- President Bill Clinton
- President Barack Obama
- President Donald Trump
- President Joe Biden
Can the president be court martialed? The answer is no! Court martial is a trial conducted by the military for wrongdoing. And only military members in active service can be court martialed.
In other words, the military doesn’t and cannot court martial a civilian. Therefore, a sitting president cannot be court martialed because he’s a civilian.
Remember, we’re in a democracy, and the president of the United States (whether he or she is a former military officer), is elected as a civilian.
The only way to remove a president from office is via impeachment.