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Senator to Stand In for Roberts in Trump's Trial

Chief justice isn't obligated to preside over Senate trials of non-presidents
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2021 5:07 PM CST

(Newser) – Promising to "not waver from my constitutional and sworn obligations to administer the trial with fairness, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws," Sen. Patrick Leahy confirmed Monday that he'll preside over the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. The Vermont Democrat is the majority party's senior senator. A Leahy spokesman said the decision was up to the Democratic and Republican leaders, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, the Hill reports. Chief Justice John Roberts presided over Trump's first impeachment trial but has declined to do so this time. A spokeswoman said Monday that Roberts would have no comment about his decision, per NPR. Instead, the role will go to Leahy, the Senate's president pro tempore, who is third in line for the presidency. Senators of both parties said they believe Roberts should preside.

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The Constitution specifies that the chief justice should preside over an impeachment trial of the president but doesn't exactly say who should do it when a former president is tried, per the New York Times. Having a Democrat in the chair "really undermines the legitimacy" of the process, Republican Sen. John Cornyn said. Leahy voted to convict Trump the first time, last February. On Monday, Leahy, 80, said he sees no conflict. "I'm not presenting the evidence. I am 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 that would say that I am anything but impartial in voting on procedure." The Senate trial is scheduled to begin the week of Feb. 8. (The Supreme Court sided with Trump on two lawsuits Monday.)

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