Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., pledged Monday to remain impartial in his role presiding over former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial next month despite his past call for the Senate to convict Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Under normal conditions, the Constitution dictates that Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over an impeachment trial. However, since Trump has already left office, Roberts is not constitutionally required to fill the role and Leahy, the Senate’s president pro tempore, will take his place.
Leahy, 80, was a vocal critic of Trump after his supporters stormed the Capitol, calling for him to be convicted on impeachment charges and barred from holding office in the future. But in a statement released shortly after his key role in the trial surfaced, Leahy said his personal political views would not impact his judgment.
LEAHY EXPECTED TO PRESIDE OVER TRUMP IMPEACHMENT INSTEAD OF CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS
“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,” Leahy said in a statement. “It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously.”
“I consider holding the office of the president pro tempore and the responsibilities that come with it to be one of the highest honors and most serious responsibilities of my career,” 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.”
The position of president pro tempore is awarded to the longest-serving senator in the majority party. Leahy is third in line for the presidency after Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
A total of 10 Republicans joined with House Democrats on Jan. 13, roughly one week after the Capitol riot, to impeach Trump on a single count of “incitement of insurrection.”
That same day, Leahy said Trump had “sparked the flames of sedition.” The Vermont senator called for then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to immediately move forward with an impeachment trial.
“Leader McConnell must agree to hold this trial without delay,” Leahy said in the statement. “For the good of the country, he must lead his party in voting to convict President Trump and to prevent him from holding future office. Both parties must send a unified message across the ages: no authoritarians are welcome in the halls of the world’s greatest democracy.”
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House Democrats will present the impeachment charge against Trump on the Senate floor on Monday night. Senators will be sworn in as jurors on Tuesday.
The House Democrats prosecuting the case and Trump’s defense team will have roughly two weeks to prepare their arguments for the trial, which is slated to begin on Feb. 9.