Leahy To Preside Over Impeachment As President Pro Tempore

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January 25, 2021 2:01 p.m.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the new Senate president pro tempore, will preside over President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial.

A Senate source told TPM the news, which Leahy himself confirmed later Monday afternoon. Senators preside when the person being impeached is not the current President of the United States, the source said. The news was first reported by CNN.

“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 said in a statement.

He added to reporters that his role will be strictly procedural. “I’m not presenting the evidence, I’m making sure that procedures are followed,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any senator who over the 40-plus years I’ve been here, would say that I’ve been anything but impartial in ruling on procedure.”

Chief Justice John Roberts presided over Trump’s last impeachment trial.

The article of impeachment will be delivered to the Senate by the House impeachment managers Monday evening at 6:55 pm E.T. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), head manager, will read the article on the Senate floor.

After the opening ceremony, it’ll be a couple weeks before the trial starts in earnest.

The senators will be sworn in Tuesday, and a summons issued to Trump. Trump must respond to the article and the House file its pre-trial brief on February 2. Trump will submit his pre-trial brief by February 8, the deadline for the House to respond to Trump. The House then has to file its rebuttal pre-trial brief by February 9, at which point the trial can begin.

The timeline is a bit more expedited than the one proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), though McConnell has praised it as a fair compromise.

What form the trial will take is yet to be seen. Some Democrats have indicated that they do not consider witnesses necessary, as most of Congress bore witness to the insurrection that’s at the heart of the article.

Trump’s legal team was another unknown variable, though he has reportedly secured  the services of at least one attorney, Butch Bowers, so far.

Democrats alongside the Biden administration have been trying to finagle an impeachment schedule that doesn’t suck up all the time otherwise to be used for confirming nominees and passing legislation.

But those Senate processes are frozen while McConnell holds the organizing resolution — the usually pro forma process to codify the new chairmanships and committee composition – hostage. He is demanding that Democrats promise not to get rid of the filibuster, which would lower the vote threshold for all legislation to 51 votes, taking away much of McConnell’s power. If they won’t agree, he will filibuster the organizing resolution’s passage, which would require 60 votes to overcome.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said publicly that McConnell’s demands “will not be accepted,” but it’s still unclear how the situation resolves. Democrats could blow up the filibuster now and circumvent McConnell’s obstruction, but they’d need all 50 Democrats to do it. A spokesperson for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), for one, told the Washington Post Monday that she is still against getting rid of it and “not open to changing her mind about it.”

McConnell’s power grab has prevented the effective Democratic majority from taking over, with the composition of the previous Congress still in place, leaving Republicans in charge of committees key to both getting nominees and legislation through.

This post has been updated.

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