Fred Henneke, Attorney & Counselor-At-Law

SHIFTING FOCUS: 01/14/2020

The issue of the impeachment of President Trump having been determined, the attention now turns to the issue of removal from office. It appears that the House of Representatives will vote on appointing “Managers”, aka Prosecutors, to present the reasons for the impeachment of the President to the Senate, sitting as a jury. The Managers will then formally and literally carry the two Articles of Impeachment from the House of Representatives chamber to the Senate Chamber. It’s not far. The ball is then in the Senate’s court.

Prior to beginning the trial of President Trump, the Senate will vote on the rules of the trial. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority leader, wants to use the same rules as were followed for the trial of President Clinton. If his druthers prevail, and he has the votes to approve them, following the taking of the oath by Senators, the Managers will present their case and the President’s attorneys will present their rebuttal. The Senators cannot speak (make speeches) but can submit written questions to the Managers and President’s attorneys to be answered in writing., After both sides have made their case and the questions answered, the Senate will vote on whether or not to call witnesses or subpoena documents; majority rules. When all is said and done, the Senators vote; it takes 2/3rds of those present to remove the President from office, a very high bar. Given the present numbers of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, 20 Republican senators would have to vote to remove the President if all Democrat Senators also voted to remove. The defection of that many Republicans is highly unlikely.

Once the trial starts, the Senate can not take up any other business; the senators are compelled to attend every minute of the trial. That could hamper those four senators still vying for the Democrat nomination for president. No telling how long the trial will last.

Per the Constitution, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, presides over the trial of the President. He, or she, can have little impact upon the outcome. The Chief Justice will rule on objections to testimony or evidence but make no rulings on the subject of the trial. 

The oath that the senators take as jurors is not the same one they took upon entering office. This one requires them to be “impartial”. Given the over-the-top partisanship in today’s ;politics, you would be hard pressed to find a senator that has not already made up his or her mind. The system certalnly sounds unworkable today but we should keep in mind that the Constitution makes no mention of political parties, much less mindless hyper partisanship. The Founding Fathers had much higher expectations of elected officials than we enjoy (?) today.

One might ask what Nancy :Pelosi gained by holding the Articles of Impeachment hostage in a futile attempt to put pressure on Senator McConnell to agree to call witnesses that might sway some Republican senators.The answer is Nothing, except to more clearly identify this impeachment as a partisan, electoral issue as opposed to a constitutional one. Sad but true.


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