Who will preside over the second Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump remains a key open question as lawmakers prepare to begin the unprecedented proceeding as soon as Inauguration Day.
The U.S. Constitution says that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court „shall preside” over trials of the President of the United States, but it does not specify what happens if the president has left office. No ex-president has ever faced a Senate trial.
The question is complicated by a legal text open to interpretation, and there is no consensus among constitutional scholars or impeachment experts.
„He was president when he committed these offenses. He was president when he was impeached,” said Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe. „The whole point of having the chief justice preside in these extremely important presidential cases is because those are the ones that most require the legitimacy, the impartiality, the neutrality and non-partisan character of an independent judge.”
Sources tell ABC News that it will be up to congressional leadership to make the final decision. They could invite Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over Trump’s first Senate impeachment trial, to return to the largely ceremonial role, or they could look elsewhere.
If an invitation is extended to Roberts, his participation would likely hinge on his own interpretation of the law, they said.
There is also the chance Roberts may choose to recuse from a Senate trial if Trump or his legal team were to challenge the constitutionality of the proceedings in federal court — a scenario in which Roberts and the justices could ultimately be asked to rule.
A spokeswoman for the chief justice said he had no comment. Senate leaders Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell have not publicly addressed the format of a trial.
Last week, in a memo to Senate Republicans obtained by the Washington Post, McConnell expressed some doubt about Roberts’ participation, writing: “Whether the Chief Justice would actually preside over the trial after President Trump ceases to be President on January 20, however, is unclear,” he said, according to the paper.
In Roberts’ absence, the responsibility to preside may fall to Vice President Kamala Harris, as incoming president of the Senate, or to Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, as president pro tempore, according to experts.
„It would be really bizarre to say any politician, much less the vice president, who was an adversary of Donald Trump, should preside over the trial,” Tribe said.
University of Texas law professor Steven Vladeck, a leading constitutional scholar, has also been making the case that the chief justice is the best choice and one authorized by the Constitution.
„The question should be whether the impeached officer was president at the time of impeachment. Here, he was, so Roberts presides,” Vladeck wrote on Twitter.
„And if it seems odd to you that the Constitution doesn’t speak to this scenario, here’s a better one: Who presides over the trial if the *Vice President* is impeached?” he continued. „If nothing else, it’s an object lesson in how ambiguous so much of the Constitution is (and always has been).”
Some Republicans, including former federal appellate judge Michael Luttig, have argued that a Senate impeachment trial for a former president is entirely unconstitutional and, therefore, that Roberts should have no role.
In 2nd Trump impeachment trial, will Chief Justice John Roberts preside? originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
The Toledo Police Department announced that 24-year-old officer Brandon Stalker was shot and killed after a standoff situation at a home Monday afternoon.
Officer Stalker was killed when SWAT teams forced an unamed suspect out of the home he had been hiding in after hours of negotiations were unsuccessful, Toledo Police Chief George Kral said at a news conference Monday. The suspect started firing after exiting the home, Kral said.
Stalker had been assigned to cover the perimeter and was not part of the SWAT team, Kral said. He leaves behind a fiancé and a young child. Stalker was hired in July of 2018.
„This is a very dark and horrific day for the city,” Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said at a press conference Monday.
The mayor called Stalker a „fantastic officer and a proud new dad.” „His loss will be felt forever. We will never forget his service and sacrifice,” Kapszukiewicz tweeted.
Kral said the incident began when the gang task force saw a suspect wanted for vandalizing a cathedral earlier Monday.
As officers approached the suspect, Kral said he brandished a firearm and went into the home. At that time, a perimeter was set and the SWAT team and negotiators were called in. After hours of negotiations were unsuccessful, Kral said the SWAT team initiated gas inside the home.
The suspect then came out of the house with two firearms and started shooting, Kral said. Stalker was struck once.
The suspect was shot, but his condition is unknown.
„This is a very dark and horrific day for the city of Toledo and it comes as a time when the Toledo Police Department has had to endure too many dark and terrible days in the last six months,” Kapszukiewicz said Monday.
On July 4, 2020, Toledo police officer Anthony Dia died after being shot in the chest while responding to a 911 call of an intoxicated person in a Home Depot parking.
Ohio police officer shot and killed following hours long standoff originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
WASHINGTON (AP) — Presidential traditions are usually known for their solemnity and carry the weight of future historical significance. This one began with cartoon turkeys and a reference to lunch.
As he was preparing to leave the White House in January 1989, President Ronald Reagan wanted to leave a note for his successor, George H.W. Bush, and reached for a pad emblazoned with a cartoon by humorist Sandra Boynton under the phrase, “Don’t Let the Turkeys Get You Down.” It featured a collection of turkeys scaling a prone elephant, the symbol of both men’s Republican Party.
“Dear George, You’ll have moments when you’ll want to use this particular stationery. Well, go to it,” Reagan scrawled. He noted treasuring “the memories we share” and said he’d be praying for the new president before concluding, „I’ll miss our Thursday lunches. Ron.”
Thus was born the tradition of departing presidents leaving a handwritten note in the Oval Office for their successors. The missives’ contents start off as confidential, but are often eventually made public by archivists, references in presidential memoirs or via social media after journalists and others filed requests to obtain them.
The 32-year tradition is in peril this year. President Donald Trump has refused to accept the results of November’s election and vowed not to attend Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. That makes it doubtful Trump will leave behind any handwritten, friendly advice for Biden.
Presidents often write reflectively at the end of their time in office, including George Washington, who stated that he was “tired of public life” in recording why he wasn’t seeking a third presidential term. But historians say Reagan’s is likely the first instance of a personal letter being passed between presidents as they left and entered office.
“It was a sort of a revelation that a note like this was left,” said Jim Bendat, author of “Democracy’s Big Day: The Inauguration of Our President.” “We’ve come to expect them. It’s a great tradition. It’s one of those new traditions. And the traditions for Inauguration Day are like that — they often evolve through the years.”
The notes are striking in their simplicity given just how big the job of the presidency is. But they are also notable in their camaraderie and common purpose — especially since the handoff of power is often an unhappy one: Reagan to Bush was the last time the country had one president from the same party succeed another.
Despite losing to Bill Clinton in the bitter 1992 election, Bush followed Reagan’s lead, this time on more stately, White House stationery. “I leave a note on the desk for Bill Clinton. It looks a little lonely sitting there,” Bush recalled in his book „All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings.”
“When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too,” Bush wrote in the note, adding, „I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some presidents have described.”
He continued, „I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course,” before concluding, “Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you. Good luck — George.”
Those words were so touching that the new president’s wife, Hillary, later recalled they made her cry.
“It speaks not only to his grace, but ultimately what the presidency should be all about, which is thinking about your country first,” said Mark K. Updegrove, a historian and CEO of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, who has written about the Bush family. “Though he had been soundly defeated by Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, as a good American, was wishing the new president well.”
Writing to that president’s son, incoming President George W. Bush in 2000, Clinton noted that the “burdens you now shoulder are great but often exaggerated” and that the “sheer joy of doing what you believe is right is inexpressible.”
In his own letter to President Barack Obama eight years later, the younger Bush advised that „critics will rage. Your ‘friends’ will disappoint you,” but ”no matter what comes, you will be inspired by the character and compassion of the people you now lead.”
Bush’s twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, were 27 at the time. They wrote a sort of kids’ guide to the White House for Malia and Sasha Obama, then 10 and 7. It included such advice as “slide down the banister of the solarium” and „when your dad throws out the first pitch for the Yankees, go to the game.”
In his letter to Trump in 2017, Obama wrote, “This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success, so I don’t know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful.”
But Obama did offer some words that now appear prophetic given Trump’s impeachment for inciting the deadly mob violence at the U.S. Capitol. “We are just temporary occupants of this office,” he wrote. „That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions — like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties — that our forebears fought and bled for.”
“It’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them,” Obama continued.
Updegrove said even if the note tradition stops with Trump, it could easily start again when Biden leaves office. He has already been vice president and spent 36 years in the Senate, where tradition and bipartisan congeniality are strong.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he would do it graciously,” Updegrove said.
As many as 100 pardons and commutations are reportedly being prepared for the US president to sign ahead of noon on Wednesday when he formally hands power to Joe Biden.
Those chosen will join a list of people pardoned since the November election which already includes former Trump campaign figures, one-time Republican congressmen and businessmen.
Mr Trump’s willingness to use the presidential power to pardon criminals has spawned a lobbying drive with lawyers paid tens of thousands of dollars to push potential beneficiaries.
Among the names speculated as possible pardon recipients is Dr Salomon Melgen, a well-known eye doctor from Palm Beach, Florida, who is in prison for health care fraud.
For months now there has been persistent reporting across US media outlets that Mr Trump has sounded out advisers about the possibility of pardoning himself.
Such a move would be unprecedented and likely trigger an immediate challenge through the courts, with the constitutionality of such a step murky.
Mr Trump has also reportedly mulled over pardons for his children. Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, the president’s two eldest sons, took over the running of his business empire after he entered the White House.
But both CNN and Fox News, two leading cable news networks on the Left and Right of the political spectrum respectively, reported that White House figures do not expect Mr Trump to pardon himself or his immediate family.
The storming of the US Capitol by his supporters earlier this month, which led to Mr Trump becoming the only US president to be impeached twice, may have shaped his thinking.
CNN reported that there had been plans for two days of pardon announcements before the assault took place but that is now being condescended into a single day.
Mr Trump faces a variety of legal pressures when he returns to being a private citizen on Wednesday, including investigations into his tax affairs and allegations of sexual impropriety, which he has always denied.
Details of the send-off Mr Trump is organising for himself on Wednesday morning, after he declined to attend Mr Biden’s inauguration as president, are beginning to emerge.
It will be held at Joint Base Andrews, a military airfield in Maryland, at 8am local time. There have been reports Mr Trump wants an ostentatious military parade for his final departure as president.
Scores of cheering supporters are also expected to be present, with invitations embossed at the top with an image of the White House circulating.
But even once he leaves the Oval Office, the political headaches for Mr Trump will not lift. The US Senate will hold a trial on whether to convict Mr Trump of the single article of impeachment, “incitement of insurrection”, that passed the US House of Representatives last week.
The duration of the trial, whether any witnesses will be called and when exactly it will be held were all up in the air on Monday morning.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, was yet to formally send over the impeachment article to the Senate, which would kick-start the trial process.
It emerged over the weekend that Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump’s personal attorney who has been at the forefront of his most controversial legal defences, will not represent the president at the trial.
Mr Giuliani had indicated he would play a role defending Mr Trump to the Senate, but later backtracked. There were reports the president did not want Mr Giuliani, the former New York mayor, to lead his case.
At the heart of the impeachment trial will be Mr Trump’s culpability for the violent storming of the Capitol on Wednesday Jan 6 which left five dead, including a police officer.
Mr Trump’s false insistence he won the November election and incendiary speech to supporters hours before some broke into the Capitol, when he repeatedly called on them to “fight” for his cause, were cited by congressmen who voted to impeach.
Mr Trump has rejected criticism of the speech, claiming it was “totally appropriate”.
Melania Trump, the president’s wife, released a seven-minute video giving a departing speech yesterday in which she called serving as First Lady “the greatest honour of my life”.
She called on all Americans “to focus on what unites us, to raise above what divides us, to always choose love over hatred, peace over violence and others before yourself”.
WASHINGTON — Only weeks after the U.S. election and three days after an Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated, Iranian authorities convicted a U.S. businessman on spying charges, a family friend said.
The case threatens to complicate plans by the next administration to pursue diplomacy with Iran, as President-elect Joe Biden has said he would be open to easing sanctions on Tehran if the regime returned to compliance with a 2015 nuclear agreement.
The man, Emad Shargi, 56, who is Iranian American, was summoned to a Tehran court Nov. 30 and told that he had been convicted of espionage without a trial and sentenced to 10 years, a family friend said.
Shargi’s family has not heard from him for more than six weeks, the family said in a statement.
Only a year earlier, in December 2019, an Iranian court had cleared Shargi, but the regime withheld his Iranian and U.S. passports.
The about-face by the Iranian authorities took place only weeks after Biden won the U.S. presidential election and three days after the killing of a leading nuclear scientist and senior defense official, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, east of Tehran. Iran blamed Israel for the assassination; Israel has declined to comment.
Iranian media and Farsi-language outlets had reported Shargi’s conviction but did not mention his U.S. citizenship. Shargi was not taken into custody immediately after he was sentenced; Iranian media reported that he was arrested Dec. 6 in the West Azerbaijan province of Iran, near the northern border with Iraq.
Shargi has been held incommunicado since then, his family said.
„Emad is the heart and soul of our family,” Shargi’s family said in a statement obtained by NBC News.
„We just pray for his health and safety,” the statement said. „It’s been more than six weeks since he was taken and we have no idea where he is or who has him. Out of caution for his well-being, we’ve never spoken publicly about his case and don’t wish to now. Please pray for Emad and for his safe return home.”
The case “is going to be dealt with in accordance with the domestic laws of the country,” said Alireza Miryusefi, spokesperson for Iran’s U.N. mission.
Domestic issues in either country were irrelevant to the future of the 2015 nuclear agreement, he said.
“We fully expect the Biden administration to live up to its side of the nuclear deal and lift the sanctions altogether, as Mr. Biden himself has promised it will,” Miryusefi told NBC News.
The White House National Security Council and the Biden transition team did not respond to requests for comment.
Apart from Shargi, three other Iranian-Americans are under detention in Iran: Siamak Namazi, who has been behind bars since 2015; his elderly father, Baquer, who is on medical furlough; and Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian American environmental activist, who also holds British citizenship.
The timing of Shargi’s conviction and imprisonment could put at risk the Biden administration’s plans to pursue diplomacy with Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement and reduce tensions.
President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the multinational nuclear deal, known as JCPOA, two years ago and reimposed punishing economic sanctions on Iran. Tehran in turn has gradually violated the terms of the accord, which had placed limits on its nuclear work. Biden has said he would be ready to ease the sanctions if Iran returned to compliance with the agreement, which was backed by European powers, Russia and China.
Hard-line elements in Iran, which have remained skeptical of diplomatic overtures to Washington, have backed provocative actions in the past, including the imprisonment of foreign nationals, to undermine any rapprochement with the West, according to regional analysts, human rights groups and former senior U.S. officials.
Shargi was born in Iran and educated in the U.S., earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from George Washington University. He and his wife moved back to Iran in 2016 to reacquaint themselves with the country, the family friend said.
He had worked in the plastics materials industry while in the U.S. and for an aviation brokerage firm in Abu Dhabi, and at the time of his arrest, he was working for an investment company called Sarava Holding focused on the tech industry. The family friend said that an Iranian media report that suggested he was the No. 2-ranking executive at the company was inaccurate and that he was not a major shareholder. He had been working for the company for only a number of months when he was imprisoned in 2018.
The family friend described Shargi as a gentle, caring man who is devoted to his family and has no history or interest in political activity.
Shargi was first arrested in April 2018 and held at Evin Prison in Tehran until December 2018, when he was released on bail. While he was behind bars, he was subjected to repeated interrogations, and he was blindfolded and placed in the corner of the room facing the wall, the family friend said.
During the first 44 days of his detention, Shargi had no contact with or access to the outside world, including his family, the family friend said.
Shargi’s conviction and sentencing in November were handled by Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court, the family friend said. Salavati, who is known for dispensing harsh punishments, has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department. He has „sentenced more than 100 political prisoners, human rights activists, media workers and others seeking to exercise freedom of assembly,” according to the Treasury Department.
Human rights groups have accused Iran of arbitrarily imprisoning foreign nationals, violating their rights to due process and using the cases as potential bargaining chips with other governments.
Iran denies the allegations and has rejected accounts that inmates are subject to inhumane treatment or abuse.