Purely a hypothetical question: What if a previous US President was found ineligible to be President?

Lets say we found Obama's "real" birth certificate and he was not born in the US.

What would happen? Are there any provisions for this? Would laws be invalidated? Supreme Court justices be removed? Would he be subject to some sort or prosecution? What about treaties signed? Would we remove him from "history" and say the Vice President was elected (I doubt that, as he wasnt sworn in)?

As I said, purely hypothetical.

  • Questions about impeachment, political consequences, and other political issues probably belong on Politics SE; impeachment seems to be almost entirely a political ratehr than a legal matter. But there is a legitimate legal question here.
    – Stuart F
    May 22, 2023 at 9:03
  • 2
    Note that you don't have to be born in the USA to be allowed to become US president. You have to be a natural born citizen, but that includes many US citizens born outside the USA.
    – gnasher729
    May 22, 2023 at 10:21
  • @gnasher729 but it would not include Obama if he had been born outside the US. This is because his father was not a US citizen, which means that he would not be a US citizen unless his mother had resided in the US for at least 10 years of which five were after reaching the age of 14; since she was not yet 19, it was impossible for her to have satisfied the second criterion.
    – phoog
    May 22, 2023 at 11:55

2 Answers 2


What would happen?


The Courts would deem it to be a political question that was decisively and conclusively resolved when Congress ratified the electoral vote and the President was sworn in.

To the extent that there was a possibility of challenging it, this would be considered untimely not later than the end of the President's term.


In the hypothetical past, some person could petition for writ of quo warranto, and if your alternative reality can be proven, the person may be removed from office, indeed this happened a half a year ago in New Mexico, with reference to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. This would have no effect on the law and other actions taken while he was president, it would only impact his ability to appoint future judges and sign future laws. As far as I know, the Supreme Court has never entertained any such writ w.r.t. qualification for federal office.

  • So any bills signed into law would still be valid? Pardons would still be valid? There are no consequences for there being an invalid President? Just an oopsie and carry on? Personally, I think a firestorm would happen... Opposing parties trying to get everything undone.
    – Keltari
    May 22, 2023 at 2:00
  • @Keltari "Opposing parties trying to get everything undone": maybe, but that's a question for Politics, not Law. Though it's probably too hypothetical and speculative even for Politics.
    – phoog
    May 22, 2023 at 5:31
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    @Keltari This answer doesn't refer to personal consequences. There would be a good chance that a president would be impeached if they had lied about their age or eligibility (although as it's never happened, it's hard to prove, and maybe their party wouldn't impeach). But it doesn't make much sense to invalidate all actions of a president (or judge, congressperson, etc) if they were found to have lied about their eligibility - do you release and compensate everyone convicted under new laws, rescind wars they started, redecide thousands of civil cases when laws are changed, etc?
    – Stuart F
    May 22, 2023 at 8:55

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