A senate source confirmed to NPR that Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt, will preside over the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
Being the longest-serving lawmaker in the ruling party gives Leahy the constitutional role of president pro tempore. This also gives him the right to preside over impeachment trials. In modern times the president pro tempore has presided over the trials to remove federal judges.
Chief Justice John Roberts had presided over the first impeachment trial as Trump had been the president but now since he is a former president there is no constitutional obligation on him. He had also indicated that he preferred to keep the Supreme Court out of politics. When asked for a comment on Monday, a Supreme Court spokesperson said that the Chief Justice would make no comment.
Reporters asked Sen. Patrick Leahy if he had any concerns about being able to remain impartial. He told them that he had presided over the Senate for hundreds of hours and that there have been never such suggestions ever. He said that he his role was to make sure that procedures were followed.
The Democrats may have preferred an impartial arbitrator such as CJ Roberts. The Vice President is not presiding as it would perhaps be worse optics than the president pro tempore, though he is also a Democrat.
The success of the impeachment trial is very low. Some Democrats are looking at ways and means to constitutionally bar Trump from holding office in the future.
They are exploring Section 3 of the 14th Amendment which was enacted after the Civil War. It lets Congress bar any officer, civil or military, from future positions if he or she had “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.” This type of conduct is said to go against the Constitution.
The House Democrats used this article “incitement of insurrection” as they say Trump’s remarks incited his loyalists and caused the violence, destruction and loss of lives at the Capitol riot on January 6.