Chief Justice John Roberts will not be presiding over an unprecedented impeachment of Donald Trump as a private citizen.
Because Trump is no longer in office, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, (VT) will preside over the trial instead, the Washington Examiner reported.
Leahy, not Roberts, to preside
The Senate will begin its trial for “incitement of insurrection” in February, after House Democrats moved to impeach Trump just days before his term in office ended.
This is the second impeachment of Trump, who was cleared of a first one in February 2020 relating to an infamous phone call with Ukraine. Roberts presided over that trial, but won’t be there this time around.
The Constitution gives the Chief Justice the job of presiding for sitting presidents, but Trump is no longer in office. Senator Leahy, who is president pro tempore of the Senate and the senior-most senator, is set to preside instead.
Leahy has been a vocal Trump critic, but claimed that he would take his oath to be impartial “extraordinarily seriously.”
“When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tempore takes an additional special oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws. It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously,” he said.
Votes may not be there
This all comes amidst speculation over whether the Republicans in the Senate would join Democrats in convicting Trump. It would take 17 defections. On Tuesday, all but five Republicans voted in favor of dismissing the trial, signaling that 17 defections is a long shot.
A number of Senate Republicans have denounced the trial, with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) calling it a “sham” to put a private citizen on trial.
“Democrats claim to want to unify the country, but impeaching a former president, a private citizen, is the antithesis of unity,” he said.
Although Trump is a private citizen now, some have pushed to continue the effort to stop him from running for federal office again. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has vowed that “a trial is going to happen… And if the former president is convicted, there will be a vote to disqualify him from future office.”
The whole ordeal has left Democrats looking to some obscure historical precedents, like the 1876 impeachment of former Secretary of War William Belknap, and some have discussed using the 14th Amendment to stop Trump from seeking office, something that hasn’t been done since Reconstruction.