Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the longest-serving Senate Democrat, will preside over former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial instead of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, The Hill reported.
Roberts oversaw Trump's first impeachment trial in 2020. The U.S. Constitution says the chief justice presides when the person facing trial is the current president of the United States. President Joe Biden was inaugurated last Wednesday.
The House two weeks ago voted to impeach Trump for "incitement of insurrection" after a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, leaving five dead.
A spokesman for Leahy said the final decision is up to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
"Leaders have been negotiating all process issues about the trial, and all along we have deferred to them for any announcements about this and all other process matters," the aide said.
Republicans criticized the news.
"The Constitution requires that the chief justice preside over the impeachment trial of a president but that's not what we're doing," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "To me that's indicative of the fact that we're in uncharted waters."
"I just think it looks very petty and vindictive, and I understand there are a lot of people who are mad, but the process itself already looks like a railroad job," he added.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said the hearing would be illegitimate if the chief justice does not preside, "and really goes to show that it's not really constitutional to impeach someone who's not president."
Leahy voted to remove Trump in 2020's Senate impeachment trial.
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