WASHINGTON — U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will not preside over Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial since Trump is now a former president, local media have reported.
Instead, Senator Patrick Leahy, the president pro tempore of the Senate which is a constitutional role given to the longest-serving lawmaker in the majority party, is expected to preside at the trial scheduled to begin on Feb. 8.
“I have presided over hundreds of hours in my time in the Senate,” Leahy told local reporters.
“I don’t think anybody has ever suggested I was anything but impartial in those hundreds of hours.”
Leahy, 80, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is third in the line of presidential succession, after the vice president and House speaker.
House impeachment managers are expected to deliver the article of impeachment to the Senate Monday evening.
Some Republican critics say this creates a conflict of interest because Leahy voted in February to convict Trump on two articles of impeachment during the first trial.
Some others say Roberts’s absence undermines the legitimacy of the trial.
“If the chief justice doesn’t preside, I think it’s an illegitimate hearing and really goes to show that it’s not really constitutional to impeach someone who’s not president,” said Republican Senator Rand Paul.
Local analysts recently observed a growing number of Republican senators have said they oppose holding an impeachment trial, making chances that Trump will be convicted dimming.
The Democrats-controlled House voted to impeach Trump over “incitement of insurrection” in a 232-197 vote on Jan. 13, making him the first president to be impeached twice.
The impeachment resolution cited Trump’s speech to supporters on Jan. 6 that was followed by some of the crowd breaching the Capitol building to interrupt Congress’s certification of the 2020 election results as evidence of his “incitement of insurrection.”