SCOTUS Chief Justice Roberts decides not to preside over Senate impeachment trial

Former President Donald Trump is facing an impending impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, but the fact that he is no longer in office stands to present some unusual challenges.

According to the Washington Examiner, the most notable change in how the trial will be managed came with the news that U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts has decided to bow out of presiding over the proceedings.

Roberts turns down invitation

As a result, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chamber’s president pro tempore, will fill the role. He was officially sworn in on Tuesday.

House Democrats delivered the article of impeachment to the Senate earlier this week, and the trial is set to commence during the week of Feb. 8.

While the U.S. Constitution calls for the Supreme Court chief justice to preside over Senate presidential impeachment trials, but Roberts found a way to sidestep that rule in connection to the former president.

Since Trump will be the first ex-president to face an impeachment trial, Senate leaders are essentially being forced to reinvent the process as they go.

Roberts possibly made the decision to skip his constitutional duties in an effort to avoid partisan criticism amid the massive ideological divide apparent across the nation’s political landscape.

“The trial is over”

Notably, Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), their parties’ respective leaders in the Senate, collaborated on the issue of who would be tasked with presiding over the trial. Upon offering Roberts the opportunity, he turned them down.

“The Constitution says the chief justice presides for a sitting president,” Schumer said. “So it was up to John Roberts whether he wanted to preside with a president who’s no longer sitting — Trump. And he doesn’t want to do it.”

Among GOP lawmakers, some are outraged over the idea that the Senate will go through a trial in the first place, arguing that Trump’s current status as a private citizen means that Congress does not have the constitutional authority to carry out such a process.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) led a push to denounce the trial, voting along with 44 other Senate Republicans in labeling the trial unconstitutional.

“If you voted that it was unconstitutional, how in the world would you ever vote to convict somebody for this?” Paul asked reporters this week. “This vote indicates it’s over. The trial is over.”

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