Democrat U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, the most senior member of the chamber, will preside over the upcoming impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the U.S. Senate instead of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts.
Reports have noted that Roberts has declined to participate.
There is an unsettled legal question as to whether a former President can be tried and impeached. Impeachment trials of other officials after they left office have been conducted but an impeachment trial of a former President has never been attempted.
Trump is one of three Presidents to have been impeached during their terms. Presidents Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson are the others. None have been removed from office.
“The president pro tempore has historically presided over Senate impeachment trials of non-presidents,” Leahy said in a statement on Monday. He is the Senate President Pro Tempore.
Even though he will be presiding, Leahy will still be able to vote in the trial. The Democrat Senator from Vermont voted to convict Trump in the 2020 impeachment trial.
“When I preside over the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, I will not waver from my constitutional and sworn obligations to administer the trial with fairness, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws,” Leahy added.
Senator John Cornyn (R) of Texas posed a question on Twitter many onlookers are wondering: “How does a Senator preside, like a judge, and serve as juror too?”
Mississippi U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R) indicated to Y’all Politics on Monday that Chief Justice Roberts not presiding calls into question the proceedings.
“I think it speaks volumes that the Chief Justice declined to preside,” Senator Wicker said.
Both Wicker and Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) are on record as being opposed to the Senate moving forward with the impeachment trial of Trump.
“Senator Hyde-Smith continues to oppose the hurried impeachment process set in motion by House Democrats,” the Senator’s office said Monday afternoon.
Wicker agrees, saying the U.S. House voted on the impeachment articles without hearings or any careful consideration of evidence. Mississippi’s senior Senator noted that President Joe Biden could have used his influence to stop the impeachment process from going forward and sought to unify the country.
“A second impeachment trial is sure to inflame partisan tensions and could poison the cooperative spirit we need in a 50-50 Senate,” Wicker wrote in his weekly report. “I fear it will also bring more reproach on Congress’s solemn impeachment power, which should be used sparingly and with sober deliberation.”
Wicker and Hyde-Smith have said they will not vote to convict Trump.
The Senate is set to begin the impeachment trial the week of February 8th.