Leahy, 80, was just sworn in as president pro tempore of the Senate. Both parties traditionally choose their oldest member to serve in the position, which is essentially a backup for the president of the Senate, whenever they gain a majority in the body.
“The president pro tempore has historically presided over Senate impeachment trials of non-presidents,” Leahy said in a statement. “When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tempore takes an additional special oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws. It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously.”
“I consider holding the office of the president pro tempore and the responsibilities that come with it to be one of the highest honors and most serious responsibilities of my career,” he added. “When I preside over the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, I will not waver from my constitutional and sworn obligations to administer the trial with fairness, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws.”
The U.S. Constitution states that the Supreme Court’s chief justice shall preside when the president of the United States is tried in an impeachment trial. But Trump left office last week, throwing Justice John Robert’s role into question.
Reports suggest Roberts doesn’t want to preside over a trial of the former president. The Supreme Court didn’t respond to a request for comment, nor did spokespersons for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Dozens of Republicans have voiced opposition to holding an impeachment trial for a former president. Some have said Roberts’s alleged position illustrates the issues.
“If Justice Roberts won’t preside over this sham ‘impeachment’ then why would it ever be considered legitimate?” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said in a tweet last week.
The House plans on transmitting the article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate on Monday. The House alleges Trump incited the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol. The Senate expects to start the trial on the week of Feb. 8.
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