Historical Impeachment Trial Begins

It is official. Donald J. Trump is the third president in the history of the United States to have been impeached, falling in line behind Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson. Be careful to confuse novelty with ease, because his process is far from over. Next, the impeachment process heads to the Senate where Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader from Kentucky, promises a trial will be underway shortly. Kellyanne Conway, White House counselor, even predicts that the trial will be done within two weeks, acquitting Trump just in time for the annual State of the Union address on February 4th. 

On January 15th, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, signed off on two impeachment charges voted on by the House—abuse of power and obstruction of Congress—and nominated seven impeachment managers who will prosecute the impeachment in the Senate. The impeachment process in the Senate is as it sounds: a court trial. Chief Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court will serve as the presiding judge, and Senators will serve as jurors. The seven impeachment managers are as follows: Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a member of the House Judiciary Committee and a former litigator, Representative Val Demings of Florida, a member of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees as well as a former Chief of Police, Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, former Army Ranger and attorney, and Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas, a member of the House Judiciary Committee and former judge. 

Interestingly and likely not coincidentally, according to NPR, many of these impeachment managers have also been part of previous impeachment proceedings with Nadler being a member of the Judiciary Committee during President Clinton’s impeachment and Lofgren working as an aide during President Nixon’s impeachment proceedings and as a panel member during President Clinton’s impeachment. 

The procession of impeachment managers and House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving led by House Clerk Cheryl Johnson, followed the route tread before by the impeachment managers of Clinton and Johnson to deliver the articles of impeachment to the Senate. The next day, January 16, Schiff read the articles of impeachment to the Senate before Chief Justice Roberts was sworn in as the presiding judge by Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa. Roberts then swore in all the senators, except one who will be sworn in before the trial begins next week.

As of right now, President Trump has been summoned by the Senate, and McConnell is working on drafting the rules of the trial and how it will operate. As it stands, there is an unresolved conflict regarding the calling of witnesses. As more and more begins to unfold regarding the Ukraine scandal, debate circles witnesses such as John Bolton, the former national security advisor, who reports a willingness to testify. It looks like there will be a vote over whether new witnesses can be called as Democrats support the inclusion of new witnesses, while Republicans heavily oppose. Nevertheless, Democrats may have reason to have hope, sas Moderate Republicans have implied they are open to the idea. For example, Senator Susan Collins of Maine stated “It is likely that I would support a motion to call witnesses at that point in the trial just as I did in 1999.”