Senate declares impeachment trial rules for upcoming Capitol Hill theatrics
WASHINGTON, January 18, 2020 — As the U.S. Senate gets underway for the impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump, the Senate last week released a list of impeachment trial rules that all Senators must follow or face punishment for violating.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell provided a preview of the current rules last fall after the House decided it would commence an impeachment investigation with the clear intent of ousting President Trump.
“‘[W]e intend to do our constitutional responsibilities,’ [said McConnell, warning] that senators won’t be allowed to speak because they are jurors. McConnell said such silence ‘would be good therapy for a number of them.’
Impeachment trial rules include a ban on intrusive electronic devices
According to a report by Channel 3000, the impeachment trial rules “include a ban on smart phones and electronics. Senators are required to sit at their desk and not talk to their fellow Senators, and not read any materials not associated with the ongoing testimony.”
Murkowski pleased by rules that indicate seriousness and legal formality
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), praised the Senate rules, according to Channel 3000, which observed that they “might seem more designed for a seventh-grade classroom instead of the United States Senate.” On CSPAN, Murkowski said she is glad that the Senate can put these devices away and pay attention to this historic impeachment trial. She further approved of the rules’ formality.
“I’m glad we will be sitting in our chairs, I’m glad that we are going to be focused on what’s in front of us at that time. I think it’s important, it’s beautifully old fashion, and I think we should stick to it,”
The rules themselves were part of a set of guidelines – some still under discussion – that dictate how members must conduct themselves during the entire impeachment trial.
Other listed rules include a requirement that Senators must remain in attendance at all times. In addition, Senators must refer to Chief Justice John Roberts as Mr. Chief Justice.
Some Senate Democrats continue to run interference for the House majority
Some Democrat Senators continue to snipe at the Senate impeachment trial rules even though the trial has not begun. NBC/MSNBC reporter Kasie Hunt noted this observation by Senator and former presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)
“If the Senate does not conduct a fair trial, then we can begin to talk about the end of our democracy.” @KamalaHarris discusses the Senate impeachment trial with @Kasie, calls for witnesses to be included pic.twitter.com/t04I1LyISe
— Way Too Early with Kasie Hunt (@WayTooEarly) January 16, 2020
Current Senate impeachment rules seem reluctantly bi-partisan. So far…
The offices of Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Schumer drew up the current rules in as bipartisan a fashion as current Washington politics allows.
In addition to rules for Senators, rules include conduct by the media and the public as well. The Senate is restricting access to the Senate wing of the Capitol every day, 30 minutes prior to all proceedings involving the Articles of Impeachment.
Other rules of note outlined in a “Dear Colleague” letter under the signatures of Senators McConnell and Schumer include the following.
- Senatorial staff access to the Senate floor will be very limited.
- Each member of the Senate will also receive tickets permitting access to the Senate gallery.
- The Senate has limited the press during this impeachment trial, corralling the media into a single press pen.
- In addition, members of the press may not simply walk up and interview senators in the hallways.
The upper chamber is still in the process of finalizing all of the rules for the trial itself. These crucial rules will cover controversial issues such as Senate deliberations over witnesses.
— Headline image: Cartoon by Branco. Reproduced with permission and by arrangement with Comically Incorrect.
— Terry Ponick contributed to this article.