Chief justice and senators sworn in for Trump impeachment

By Lisa Mascaro, Associated Press

Chief Justice John Roberts has been sworn in to preside over President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, immediately administering the oath to the full Senate to ensure “impartial justice” as jurors, for only the third such proceeding in American history.

Mr Roberts made the short trip across the street from the Supreme Court before being ushered to the Senate chamber.

“Will all senators now stand, and remain standing, and raise their right hand,” Mr Roberts said.

Trump Impeachment
Impeachment managers walk to the Senate on Capitol Hill (Julio Cortez/AP)

“Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?”

The senators, at their desks, responded and then were called up to sign the oath book

Mr Roberts, who has long insisted judges are not politicians, is expected to serve as a referee for the proceedings rather than an active participant. Senators will ultimately give the verdict.

The Senate opened the impeachment trial at the start of the election year as Mr Trump seeks another term, a test not only of his presidency but also of the nation’s three branches of power and its system of checks and balances.

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Earlier Thursday, Democrats in the House of Representatives prosecuting the case stood before the Senate and formally read the articles of impeachment against Mr Trump.

“Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye!” said the Senate’s sergeant at arms, calling the proceedings to order at noon.

Senators filled the chamber, sitting silently at their seats under strict trial rules that prohibit talking or mobile phones, as the ceremonial protocol shifted the proceedings out of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democrat-run House to the Republican-majority Senate.

Those prosecuting the charges, led by Adam Schiff of the intelligence committee and Jerrold Nadler of the judiciary committee, made the solemn walk across the Capitol for a second day.

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“With the permission of the Senate, I will now read the articles of impeachment,” said Mr Schiff, standing at a lectern in the well of the chamber, a space usually reserved for senators.

“House Resolution 755 Impeaching Donald John Trump, president of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanours,” he began, reading the nine pages.

Mr Trump faces a charge that he abused his presidential power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, using military aid to the country as leverage.

Mr Trump was also charged with obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.

Ahead of the proceedings the Government Accountability office said Thursday that the White House violated federal law in withholding the security assistance to Ukraine, which shares a border with Russia.

Trump Impeachment
Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts arrives at the Senate (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The president calls the impeachment a “hoax,” even as new information emerges about his actions toward Ukraine that led to the charges against him.

Ms Pelosi said new allegations from an indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, only reinforces the need for the Senate to consider further testimony about the president’s actions toward Ukraine.

Ms Pelosi noted that typically a special prosecutor would investigate but she doubted that would happen.

“This is an example of all of the president’s henchmen,” Ms Pelosi said, “and I hope that the senators do not become part of the president’s henchmen.”

The president has suggested recently that he would be open to a quick vote to simply dismiss the charges, but sufficient Republican support is lacking for that.

Still, an eventual vote to acquit Mr Trump is considered highly likely. Opening arguments are to begin next Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.