What a Trump im­peach­ment trial process might look like

The Peterborough Examiner - - CANADA & WORLD - MARK SHER­MAN

WASH­ING­TON — As House Democrats quickly move for­ward with im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings, the like­li­hood grows that Don­ald Trump will be­come the third pres­i­dent to face a Se­nate trial to de­ter­mine whether he should be re­moved from of­fice.

The ex­am­ples of An­drew John­son and Bill Clin­ton, who were both ac­quit­ted, of­fer insight into the process Trump would face. Still, much re­mains un­known about how a trial would pro­ceed, in­clud­ing what the charges would be. It's also un­known whether wit­nesses would be called and whether parts of the pro­ceed­ings would be con­ducted be­hind closed doors. Repub­li­cans who con­trol the Se­nate will have a big say on both of those is­sues.

A look at what's known about the im­peach­ment trial: Im­peach­ment in the house: For­mal ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment prob­a­bly would be de­vel­oped and ap­proved by the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee and then sent on to the full, Demo­cratic-led House for a vote. Not all pro­posed ar­ti­cles are cer­tain to be adopted, even if Democrats con­trol the process. The Repub­li­can-led House ap­proved two and re­jected two for Clin­ton. (In 1974, the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee adopted three ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment against Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon and re­jected two others. Nixon re­signed be­fore the full House voted.)

On to the Se­nate: If im­peach­ment ar­ti­cles are adopted, the House will ap­point mem­bers to serve as man­agers who will pros­e­cute the case in the Se­nate. For Clin­ton's trial, Repub­li­cans on the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee made the case against the pres­i­dent. One House man­ager was Lind­sey Gra­ham, now a sen­a­tor from South Carolina.

Twenty years ago, the House man­agers walked silently across the Capi­tol to the Se­nate, where the sergeant-atarms es­corted them to the well of the cham­ber and Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., then the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee chair­man, read the im­peach­ment ar­ti­cles aloud. When he fin­ished, Hyde said: "That con­cludes the ex­po­si­tion of the ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment against Wil­liam Jef­fer­son Clin­ton. The man­agers re­quest that the Se­nate take or­der for the trial."

It's not clear whom Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would ap­point as man­agers, but one law­maker who's not on the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee seems a good bet: Adam Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, a for­mer prose­cu­tor who has been lead­ing the im­peach­ment in­quiry as House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee chair­man.

Af­ter im­peach­ment ar­ti­cles are read, Chief Jus­tice John Roberts would be sworn in to pre­side over the trial. Roberts in turn would swear in the 100 sen­a­tors. Last time, they also signed an oath book and kept com­mem­o­ra­tive pens the Se­nate pro­duced for the his­toric mo­ment, though with an un­for­tu­nate mis­spelling: "Un­tied States Sen­a­tor."

The pre­lim­i­nar­ies: The Se­nate has rules for im­peach­ment tri­als, but some key ques­tions, such as the length of the pro­ceed­ing, are likely to be de­cided in ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Demo­cratic leader. McCon­nell noted re­cently that their pre­de­ces­sors as lead­ers, Repub­li­can Trent Lott and Demo­crat Tom Daschle, ham­mered out agree­ments for Clin­ton's im­peach­ment trial.

One im­por­tant is­sue to be re­solved is who, if any­one, will be called as wit­nesses.

In Clin­ton's trial, the House Repub­li­can man­agers sought to call wit­nesses. Democrats stren­u­ously ob­jected that this would drag out the trial. In the end, there were only three wit­nesses and no live tes­ti­mony in the Se­nate: Mon­ica Lewin­sky, White House aide Sid­ney Blu­men­thal and Clin­ton con­fi­dant Ver­non Jor­dan. All were ques­tioned in pri­vate by both sides with a sen­a­tor of each party present to keep or­der and resolve dis­putes. Ex­cerpts of their video­taped de­po­si­tions were shown at the trial.

How will the trial work?: In some re­spects, a Se­nate im­peach­ment trial re­sem­bles a typ­i­cal court­room pro­ceed­ing with a judge pre­sid­ing and an un­usu­ally large jury of 100 sen­a­tors. But there are im­por­tant dif­fer­ences.

For one, it takes a vote of twothirds of those present (67 out of 100 if ev­ery­one is there) to con­vict and re­move the pres­i­dent from of­fice.

For another, while sen­a­tors are ju­rors, they also set the rules for the trial, may ask ques­tions and can be wit­nesses.

While court­room ju­rors are screened for pos­si­ble bi­ases, vot­ers al­ready have se­lected the jury in elec­tions that gave Repub­li­cans a Se­nate ma­jor­ity, with 53 seats. The GOP could in­sist on rules ben­e­fit­ing Trump, in­clud­ing lim­it­ing wit­nesses against him, though it would take just three Repub­li­cans to foil a party-line ef­fort.

Even if all Democrats vote to con­vict Trump, the Demo­cratic House man­agers still need to win over more than one-third of Repub­li­can sen­a­tors for a con­vic­tion — a for­mi­da­ble task. By com­par­i­son, in the Clin­ton trial, Repub­li­can man­agers couldn't win over a sin­gle Demo­crat and sev­eral Repub­li­cans voted to ac­quit. To make their case, the man­agers are likely to give open­ing and clos­ing ar­gu­ments that could last for sev­eral days and re­spond to sen­a­tors' ques­tions that also could be time-con­sum­ing.

SU­SAN WALSH THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ap­proval rat­ing is hold­ing steady as the House presses for­ward with an im­peach­ment probe that could im­peril his pres­i­dency.

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