May 13, 2021

Report: Chief Justice Roberts may refuse to preside over Trump impeachment

As former President Donald Trump left office and President Joe Biden was sworn in on Wednesday as America’s 46th president, the fact remains that Trump is still facing the Senate trial portion of his second impeachment.

According to the UK Daily Mail, the Senate impeachment trial could be one for the history books, as it has been reported that U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is not interested in presiding over Trump’s impeachment trial this time around, leaving open the possibility that newly-minted Vice President Kamala Harris could fill the role. 

At the crux of the issue is the fact that for the first time in this nation’s history, a president will face an impeachment trial well after he has been out of office. The U.S. Constitution clearly states that “When the President of the United States is tried the Chief Justice shall preside.”

That particular line could give Roberts a free pass on being responsible for presiding over the trial and given Harris’ secondary duty as President of the Senate, she very well could be the person in charge of the trial in Roberts’ place.

One would have to presume that it’s not a position that Harris would particularly like to be in, given that her and Biden are focused on “unity” and a fresh-start for America. Getting involved in a Senate impeachment trial of one of the most controversial presidents in American history would obviously throw a large wrench into those gears.

Unfortunately for Roberts, the final rules of a Senate impeachment trial are set by the leaders of the upper chamber — in this case it would be Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). If they ultimately insist that Roberts should preside, it would be difficult for him to refuse that order.

According to New York Magazine, it’s still completely unclear when the trial will begin, with some believing that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will stall sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate until some of Biden’s Cabinet appointees are confirmed.

Should Harris decide to refuse the duties of presiding over Trump’s impeachment trial, it would then fall on incoming Senate president pro tem Pat Leahy (D-VT), who would be next in line for the job.

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