Politics

Guide to the Trump Impeachment Trial in the Senate

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump will start on Jan. 21, as all 100 U.S. senators gather in Washington to vote on initial trial guidelines.

Senators will hear from Trumps legal team and House impeachment managers as soon as Jan. 21, before submitting written questions to both sides. According to the Republican majority, the matter of whether to call witnesses will be decided after both sides present their cases and the questions are answered.

Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on Dec. 18, 2019, without a single Republican vote. The two articles of impeachment charge him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The Judge

Chief Justice John Roberts, who will preside over the trial, was sworn in on Jan. 16.

Roberts, 64, was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2005 by President George W. Bush. He was directly confirmed to be chief justice following the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Unlike other sorts of trials, if Roberts does make a ruling, 51 senators can vote to overrule him.

Presiding officer Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swears in members of the Senate for the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 16, 2020, in this image from video. (Senate Television via AP)
Presiding officer Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swears in members of the Senate for the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 16, 2020, in this image from video. (Senate Television via AP)

The Jury

The Senate will hear the arguments for and against removing Trump from office. It holds enormous power during the proceedings, having the ability to dismiss the charges or acquit Trump with a simple majority vote, or to convict the president, removing him from office, with a 67-vote supermajority.

Senators are expected to be in attendance at all times during the proceedings and arent allowed to have phones or other electronics during the trial. They also arent allowed to speak during the proceedings.

Since the Republicans hold a 53–47 majority (including two independents who caucus with the Democrats) in the chamber, its widely considered unlikely that Trump will be convicted.

Witnesses

More than a dozen witnesses testified during the House impeachment inquiry. A majority vote is required to call witnesses during the Senate trial.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the matter of witnesses wont be included in the vote on initial trial guidelines, citing Senate rules set out in President Bill Clintons 1999 impeachment trial.

If witnesses are called, Democrats are seeking the testimony of four witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Republicans have said they want to hear from former Vice President and current presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

The senators themselves, in their roles as jurors, will have the opportunity to submit questions in writing. Under the rules, senators may even be called as witnesses in the trial.

Prosecutors and the Defense

Seven representatives were chosen to present the Houses case against Trump, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).

Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler
Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler
House managers, led by Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff (2nd R) and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler (R) walk to the Senate on Jan. 16, 2020, to deliver the Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

In a normal courtroom proceeding, prosecutors arent aligned with a political party. In this case, all seven House impeachment managers are Democrats.

Trumps team includes Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and former independent counsel Ken Starr.

pat cipollone
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