The Senate trial: What we need to know
Much of what the mainstream media (MSM) are saying about the impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate is incorrect. Reprinted from The Delco Times of Swarthmore, PA is an article providing some non-partisan, no-spin factual information. The author is a former Secretary of the U.S. Senate.
"What To Expect from the Senate Impeachment Trial
By Kelly D. Johnston
It begins, the first Senate trial of an impeached President in 21 years, and only the third in our nation’s history.As a former Secretary of the Senate – the Senate’s chief legislative, financial, and administrative officer – it’s painful to hear pundits misinform people. I’m happy to set the record straight.
First, the Senate’s role is not synonymous with that of a jury; significant differences exist. Juries do not compel the attendance of witnesses, but the Senate can. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will preside over the trial and may issue rulings on such matters as the admissibility of evidence. But a majority of the Senate can overrule the Chief Justice, not vice versa.
Second, Senate procedures and guidelines for impeachment trials are spelled out in a 1986 resolution, and is deeply rooted in what is called “precedent.” The Senate’s Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) insistence on following the outline of Clinton’s impeachment trial helped keep his caucus unified. Precedent matters a lot in the Senate until Senators (or, in some cases, 2/3rds of them) decide to change them.
The Senate’s rules leave the matter of “calling witnesses” to the “prosecution” and the “defense.” The Senate compels the attendance of witnesses. The issue of witnesses will be resolved later. Also, there’s plenty of flexibility to have some witnesses deposed versus having them serve as a “live witness” on the Senate floor. There were no live witnesses during the Clinton trial.
According to US Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), the House managers (the prosecution) will have 24 hours to make their case. The President’s lawyers or representatives will also have 24 hours in defense. Senators then have 16 hours to submit questions, in writing, to the Chief Justice. After that, the Senate leaders will work out the matter of whether witnesses will be called, how they will testify, and how many.
Once closing arguments conclude, the Senate will deliberate behind closed doors. Senate may try to open the proceedings, but that would likely require a rules change, requiring a 2/3rds vote.
There appears to be no appetite among Senators from either party for a lengthy trial. And yes, it will take 67 votes, or 2/3rds of those present and voting to remove the President.
Another wrinkle – there is a second constitutional form of punishment, and that is precluding the removed official from ever seeking public office again. One unique aspect of the Trump impeachment is that he is also a candidate for election, unlike Andrew Johnson in 1868 or Bill Clinton in 1999. If Senators vote to remove Trump from office, it would only take a simple majority to deny him the ability to seek the presidency. Most observers expect the Senate to exonerate the President. But surprises are always possible."
Added note: Tie votes are decided by the President of the Senate, not by the Chief Justice.
©2020. William Hamilton.
William Hamilton is a laureate of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. Ten-percent of the royalties from Dr. Hamilton’s Formula for Failure in Vietnam: The Folly of Limited Warfare go to the Blue Angels Foundation. To order, call toll free: (800) 253-2187 Or, go to Amazon.com.