Their case was so simple as it was extraordinary, and in a weird constitutional twist, they have been wrestling with tips on how to current it when each the prosecutors and the jury have been witnesses and victims of the offense.
How a trial would possibly work was proving to be simply as difficult.
When the Senate final met as a court docket of impeachment in February 2020, it was presided over by Chief Justice John G. Roberts of the Supreme Court. However the Structure stipulates solely that the chief justice should oversee the continuing when a present president is on trial, throwing into doubt who would lead the chamber this time round.
The duty might conceivably be left to the president of the Senate, which after Wednesday can be Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Or, if Ms. Harris doesn’t wish to grow to be embroiled within the continuing throughout her first days in workplace, she might presumably cede the duty to the Senate president professional tempore, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont.
However different constitutional students argued that as a result of the cost was lodged whereas Mr. Trump was nonetheless president, Chief Justice Roberts ought to preside once more.
The query was wrapped up in broader uncertainty in regards to the Senate’s jurisdiction over Mr. Trump as soon as he leaves workplace. Whereas former authorities officers have been tried for impeachable offenses, no former president has. Some conservatives have been pointing to the dearth of precedent, and the Structure’s silence on the matter, to argue that the Senate had no proper to sit down in judgment of Mr. Trump after Wednesday.
That seems to be the minority view. The Senate did try President Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary of war in the 1870s, after he had already resigned. Many authorized students consider that’s sufficient precedent to take action with Mr. Trump, and in any case, they argue it’s extremely unlikely that the Supreme Court docket would problem the Senate’s determination if a majority of the physique have been in favor of listening to the case.
The chief justice declined to touch upon Friday by way of a Supreme Court docket spokeswoman.
Senators and their aides have been additionally attempting to find out how they might alter the bodily structure of the Senate chamber and attendance necessities to function the trial safely through the pandemic. Previously, impeachment rules have required that every one 100 senators sit at their desks contained in the chamber every time the trial is in session, and members of the prosecution and protection groups crammed round curved tables arrange within the nicely of the Senate. However doing so now with an airborne virus ravaging the nation — and the halls of Congress — could be unsafe.