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- Sep 22, 2018
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They play and they play and they play.
U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts’s refusal to preside over Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial is giving Republicans an opportunity to focus on the Senate’s process rather than the specifics of the insurrection charge against the former president.
The Constitution calls for the Supreme Court’s top jurist to preside over impeachment trials of sitting presidents but is silent on what should happen for one who is no longer in office.
Roberts’s decision to skip the current trial without any public explanation leaves a Democrat already on the record as favoring conviction, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, overseeing the trial when it gets underway the week of Feb. 8. That opens it up to accusations of being a more partisan -- and less judicial -- process than in Trump’s 2020 impeachment.
Republicans are seizing on Roberts’s absence to question the trial’s legitimacy and deflect attention from the substantive charge that Trump incited the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The increasingly partisan nature of the debate was on display Tuesday, when 45 of the Senate’s 50 Republicans supported an unsuccessful bid to declare the case unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office.