Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will not preside over former President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, which is scheduled to begin in earnest on Feb. 8.
Instead, Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy (Vt.), the most senior member of the Senate Democratic Conference, will preside over the trial. Leahy on Monday confirmed he would wield the gavel and promised to administer “impartial justice.”
“The president pro tempore has historically presided over Senate impeachment trials of non-presidents. When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tempore takes an additional special oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and its laws. It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously,” he said in a statement.
Leahy vowed he would “not waver from my constitutional and sworn obligations to administer the trial with fairness, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws.” A spokesman for Leahy said the decision on presiding over the trial is up to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“Leaders have been negotiating all process issues about the trial, and all along we have deferred to them for any announcements about this and all other process matters,” the aide said. Republican critics say this creates a conflict of interest because Leahy voted in February to convict Trump on two articles of impeachment.
Some have also argued the Senate should not be impeaching a former president, and that only Roberts should be presiding.