The third impeachment trial of a U.S. president kicked off Thursday in Washington, and President Donald Trump is the defendant.
The Constitution stipulates that, if any federal official commits “high crimes or misdemeanors,” the House of Representatives is empowered to impeach – formally charge – that official. The House voted Wednesday afternoon to formally send the impeachment charges against Trump to the Senate.
Trump’s fate sits with the Senate, where a conviction would mean removal from office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named seven House members to serve as “managers,” essentially prosecutors, for the trial.
As the trial begins, here are answers to the questions you may be wondering:
Why do they say, “hear ye, hear ye” and use old English during impeachment proceedings?
Senate rules are explicit in providing details for an impeachment trial. The trial will begin with the proclamation “Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! All persons are commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment, while the Senate of the United States is sitting for the trial of the articles of impeachment.” Translation: Be quiet and pay attention. Senators were required to be at their desks while the articles of impeachment were read by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
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Will Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts walk to trial sessions?
After the House managers brought the articles of impeachment to the Senate, the Supreme Court’s chief justice was summoned to the Senate. The Supreme Court is right across the street from the Capitol, but plans call for Roberts to go by car to the trial each day, escorted by a court security detail, a court spokesperson said. On Thursday, four senators escorted him into the Senate chamber, where Roberts took an oath before administering an oath to the assembled senators.
What will John Roberts do?
Under Article I, section 3 of the Constitution, the chief justice of the Supreme Court must preside over the Senate trial. That means Roberts, appointed to the nation’s highest court by George W. Bush, is in charge. Roberts “may rule on all questions of evidence,” under Senate rules, which could give him sway on controversial calls such as whether former national security adviser John Bolton will testify. The hitch is that the Senate can overrule him. His role could end up being mostly ceremonial.
Doesn’t the Supreme Court need their leader?
Roberts will have a tight but manageable schedule. Oral arguments are scheduled next Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, then no more are set until late February. And the trial won’t start until 1 p.m. each day.
Senate opens impeachment trial:Here’s what to expect
Why did Nancy Pelosi use so many pens?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used scores of pens to sign her name on the impeachment articles. Using multiple pens for signing important U.S. documents is nothing new. The pens are given out as keepsakes for historic events.
How long will this impeachment trial last?
The trial will really get underway Tuesday, after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, the Senate Majority Leader, has said he hopes to wrap it up in about two weeks. But the length of the trial will depend on how many witnesses, if any, are called. The Senate has not determined whether it will call witnesses or include new evidence uncovered in the case. The last such trial, for President Bill Clinton, lasted about five weeks.
Is Trump going to show up?
Probably not, although Trump said in November he would “strongly consider” facing his accusers. His tweet: “Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”
Who is Lev Parnas?
Lev Parnas is a Ukraine-born associate of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer. He sparked controversy by claiming that “President Trump knew exactly what was going on” during the White House’s alleged pressure campaign to get Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Parnas said Trump and Giuliani were routinely informed of behind-the-scenes developments in the work he did on their behalf in Ukraine.
Contributing: Richard Wolf