Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial is set to begin on February 9.
Already a massive curveball was thrown into the mix.
And the Supreme Court made a head-turning impeachment decision that changed everything.
Chief Justice John Roberts announced he would not preside over Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
That means Senate President Pro Tempore—the longest-serving senator in the majority—will oversee the proceeding.
And this is Democrat Senator from Vermont Patrick Leahy who built a reputation as a partisan warrior during his time opposing Republican judicial nominees from his perch on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The president pro tempore has historically presided over Senate impeachment trials of non-presidents. When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tempore takes an additional special oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and its laws. It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously,” Leahy explained in a statement announcing that he would take Chief Justice Roberts’ place.
Republicans raised questions about a member of the majority party presiding over a trial of the opposition party’s political leader as an obvious conflict of interest considering there is little doubt Leahy will vote to convict the President no matter what evidence is presented at trial.
Leahy claimed that he would “not waver from my constitutional and sworn obligations to administer the trial with fairness, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws.”
Beyond the obvious unfairness of the situation, Chief Justice Roberts not presiding over Trump’s impeachment trial only served to bolster Republicans’ argument that a Senate trial for Donald Trump after he left office was unconstitutional.
Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley argued that the plain text of the Constitution required that the chief justice preside over the President’s impeachment trial and that the impeachment clause specifically noted that the process was to remove “the President” from office.
“There’s only one constitutional process for impeachment and it is of the president, not a president,” Hawley declared. “It requires the chief justice to preside.”
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul agreed that if the chief justice did not preside, then this was not an impeachment trial for the President.
“If the chief justice doesn’t preside, I think it’s an illegitimate hearing and really goes to show that it’s not really constitutional to impeach someone who’s not president,” Senator Paul stated.
Rand Paul went so far as to say he would file an objection to even holding a Senate trial and would force a vote on dismissing the case.
It is now clear that whatever “momentum” there was for convicting Donald Trump on the House of Representatives’ article of impeachment evaporated.
After the passions of the moment passed and Republicans focused in on the constitutional questions raised by Democrats trying to impeach and convict a private citizen, the vast majority of GOP senators realize the dangerous and unconstitutional precedent this entire affair sets.
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