The two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump (how I love to write those words) have been drafted. These articles will be voted on individually, that is, one vote for each article. The articles of impeachment vote before the entire House of Representatives could possibly happen as early as Friday the thirteenth.
First, the articles will arrive on the House floor for debate. Nancy Pelosi is in control of when debate begins and how long it lasts. Naturally the Republican members will be disruptive and interruptive. They will attempt to pollute the process with juvenile shenanigans, but under Pelosi’s watch the debate will probably move ahead apace and well under control.
Then will come the delivery of the articles of impeachment to the Senate. It will begin with the words of the Senate’s sergeant at arms, Michael C. Stenger. Stenger will say, “All persons are commanded to keep silence, on pain of imprisonment, while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump.” At that moment the House managers, possibly headed by Adam Schiff or Jerry Nadler, who moments before were greeted by Julie Adams, the secretary of the Senate, and told the Senate is ready to receive them, will step forward and exhibit the articles of impeachment. This presentation will take place on some to-be-determined day, possibly as early as next week but probably in early January, after the Senate has returned from its Christmas break.
Meanwhile at the United States Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts will receive a request from the Senate to come to the Capitol building the next day at 1:00 p.m. to preside over the Senate’s consideration of the impeachment articles. The chief justice will return to the Senate daily—except on Sundays—while the articles are being considered throughout Donald Trump’s trial. No one knows how long the trial will take, but as it is in the hands of a Republican majority you can depend on it being a long trial or a short trial strictly based on what is most expedient for the Republican Party, and will have absolutely nothing to do with what is best for the American people.
At the same time that the Chief Justice is receiving his invitation from the Senate, a writ of summons will be delivered to Donald Trump. The writ will include each of the articles of impeachment and call on Trump to appear before the Senate in order that he file his answer to the articles in person. If Donald Trump refuses to appear at all it will be the third time a president has been so summoned but the first time he has refused to appear.
This is the point, more or less, where the prescribed and predictable rights of an impeachment trial leave the world of the ceremonially choreographed and enter the murky waters of partisan politics. Recall that by way of sleight of hand and theatrical genius Johnny Cochran transformed a solemn criminal proceeding, with the help of a weak and publicity-hungry judge and an out-of-their-depth prosecution, from the trial of OJ Simpson to the trial of Detective Mark Fuhrman. Will the Senate proceeding be thus transformed, from the trial of Donald Trump to the trial of Joe and Hunter Biden? Very possibly.
Contrary to common mythology, the Chief Justice does not serve as a judge in an impeachment trial. The Senate itself is both judge and trier of fact, and the Chief Justice serves as its presiding officer. The rules thus require the Chief Justice to direct “all forms of the proceedings” and, in so doing, “to make and issue all orders, mandates, writs, and precepts authorized by the rules.” Any Republican Senator can effectively overrule the Chief Justice at any point by merely asking to submit that ruling to a vote. A simple majority is all that is required, and as there exists a simple majority of Republican Senators, any vote to overrule the Chief Justice is quite probably guaranteed every step of the way. It has, after all, been demonstrated that Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on a simple call for a thirty minute break in the midst of proceedings without the vote running strictly yea and nay along party lines.
In other words, and it pains me to say this, whether the trial in the Senate is long or short, it is all but guaranteed to yield a favorable outcome for Donald Trump. The Republicans will be in charge. We have already seen how they behaved during the two hearings conducted by the House, so the conclusion is virtually foregone. If we want to be rid of Donald Trump, I’m afraid we will probably have to get rid of him in November.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.