Jan 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy to preside over Trump's second impeachment trial

Patrick Leahy

Sen. Patrick Leahy heads to the Senate floor on Nov. 9. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is expected to preside over former President Trump's second impeachment trial, a Senate source tells Axios. CNN first reported Leahy's role.

Why it matters: The Constitution requires the chief justice of the Supreme Court to preside over a sitting president's impeachment trial rather than the vice president — who has the title of president of the Senate — to avoid a potential conflict of interest. However, there is no precedent for a former president.

  • The 80-year-old Leahy is the most senior Democrat and president pro tempore of the Senate.

What he's saying: “The president pro tempore has historically presided over Senate impeachment trials of non-presidents," Leahy said in a statement Monday.

  • "When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tempore takes an additional special oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws.  It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously," he added.
  • "When I preside over the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, I will not waver from my constitutional and sworn obligations to administer the trial with fairness, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws."
  • "I’m not presenting the evidence, I am making sure that procedures are followed," Leahy told reporters Monday when asked about his ability to be impartial during the trial.
  • "I've presided over hundreds of hours in my term in the Senate. I don't think anybody has ever suggested I was anything but impartial in those hundreds of hours," he added.

The state of play: Trump will be tried on a single article of impeachment for allegedly inciting a mob of his supporters to violence to prevent President Biden's election results from being certified. The Senate will begin Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8.

Go deeper