The Senate Thursday will take some of its first steps to prepare for next week’s impeachment trial of President Trump, just the third such trial in Senate history. Like many congressional activities, the process begins with much pomp and circumstance and procedure and process. But little of substance will be achieved until the case for impeachment is presented next week.
First though, there are some housekeeping measures. To start, the seven House managers named by Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday will be escorted to the well of the Senate chamber, and formally read the resolution appointing them, and the two articles of impeachment approved by the House last month.
Sometime after that, the Senate will move to take up the articles, notifying the House and Chief Justice John Roberts of the time that will occur. Roberts will then cross First Street from the Supreme Court building over to the Capitol, and be escorted into the chamber by the Senate president pro tempore, the most senior member of the majority, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
Grassley will swear in Roberts to be the presiding officer during the trial, and Roberts will then swear in the 100 Senators to act as jurors. Senate rules say the president is then summoned and given a chance to respond. President Trump will be primarily represented by two attorneys, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, a private attorney who represented Trump in the Russia investigation.
But that is expected to be the extent of the “action” this week. Senators will likely head home for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, and the essence of the trial will get under way next Tuesday.
Senators may chafe at some of the conditions they’ll have to deal with once that happens. They are expected to be seated at their desks, and will have to refrain from talking to one another during the arguments.
They’ll need to rise when Chief Justice Roberts enters and exits the chamber, and should votes occur, they’ll have to stand then too. Perhaps most difficult of all, senators will be separated from their cellphones while in the chamber, and have to check them in their cloakrooms.