If the House votes to adopt articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump later this week, the impeachment proceedings will move on to a trial in the Senate. And as provided by the Constitution, the authority to preside over that trial rests with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, according to NBC News.
The vice president customarily presides over the Senate when needed — such as when a tie-breaking vote on proposed legislation is required — but in the case of impeachment of a sitting president, the VP is considered to have a conflict of interest and is thus excluded.
Justice Roberts’ role
Article 1, section 3, clause 6 of the Constitution prescribes what comes next:
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments… When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.
The chief justice casts a tie-breaking vote when needed and rules on evidentiary questions. That should be interesting, because the case put forth by the House is based mostly on hearsay and opinion with a lot of presumption mixed in.
Republicans assert that there is no evidence of a crime, and in fact, no crimes are even named in the articles drafted by the House Judiciary Committee. That begs the question of whether Roberts would be inclined to throw out all of the hearsay “evidence” contained in the House impeachment report.
The House also plays a part in this phase of the impeachment process. It will have “case managers” who will act as the prosecutors during the trial. It is likely that Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will serve in this role, perhaps along with others. However, no final details have been released as of yet.
The Senate Republicans have a good incentive to expedite the trial. Once the trial has commenced in the Senate, no other business can be conducted until its conclusion. Work must continue six days a week until the trial is over. The senators are not allowed to discuss the trial until a decision is rendered.
The jury will be composed of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and 2 independents, and it takes a 2/3 majority to convict and remove the president. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has emphatically said that won’t happen, according to Fox News.
In fact, he has declared his intention to coordinate with the president’s lawyers throughout the impeachment trial.
The articles of impeachment do not point to any concrete crime that the president has allegedly committed, and it is the opinion of the Republicans and many others in the country that this is a sham, almost make-believe impeachment.
It is unknown at this time if there will be witnesses called at the trial. The president would like to see Joe and Hunter Biden, Adam Schiff, and the so-called “whistleblower” testify, and the Democrats would like to call witnesses including White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Of course at this point, everything still amounts to mere speculation, as the House has not yet voted to send articles of impeachment to the Senate.