Block on Trump's Asylum Ban Upheld by Supreme Court
History is unfolding, as the U.S. Senate begins just its third impeachment trial of a president in our nation's history. President Trump's hold on the White House hangs in the balance.
You've already heard complaints about "due process," witness testimony, and Senate rules over the last few months. Lawmakers and pundits will try to spin their arguments to either make it sound like the president's rights are being violated or he is trampling over lawmakers.
But this is anything but a normal trial.
In this "courtroom," senators will act as the jury. However, they also get to set the rules for the proceedings. And any motion to set or change those rules only requires a majority vote. The proceedings will start with a vote to approve the rules for the proceedings, which will lay out the time limits for opening and closing arguments.
After those opening arguments, however, a senator, with the votes of 50 of their fellow lawmakers, can make and pass motions to:
In fact, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could even make a motion to stop other motions from coming to the floor, and if the majority supports him, that's that.
The one big limit on senators is a really good one: They aren't allowed to speak. After the House and Trump teams make their arguments, senators can only write down their questions. They also are not allowed to interrupt opening and closing arguments. However, a majority of senators could also vote to change this rule.
The only time senators will be allowed to speak (a privilege not afforded a regular juror) will be when debating the motions above and after closing arguments.
While U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the Senate for the duration of the trial, his role is not the same as the judge of a criminal or civil trial.
He will not be able to rule evidence and witnesses in or out of order. He will be able to rule on whether the Senate is following its rules for the proceedings, and he may vote to break any ties.
There are times where these proceedings will seem like a trial, but there will be no shouts of objections or requests for mistrials. Instead, most of America is about to get a crash course in arcane Senate procedural rules.