The Atlantic

How to Conduct a Trial in the Senate

The Constitution does not provide procedural guidelines for how an impeachment trial is to be conducted—so the senators of 1868 had to figure it out as they went.
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On Thursday, March 5, 1868, Chief Justice Salmon Portland Chase, dressed in his long black-silk robe, marched to the head of the Senate chamber and solemnly announced that “in obedience to notice, I have appeared to join with you in forming a Court of Impeachment for the trial of the President of the United States.” Swearing that he would serve impartially as judge during the trial of President Andrew Johnson, he also said he would faithfully administer the Constitution and the laws. No one quite knew what that meant. They still don’t.

Impeachment: People know the House of Representatives may impeach a sitting American president with a majority vote. They also know that the Senate then conducts a trial of the impeached president with the chief justice presiding, and if two-thirds of the Senate vote to convict, the president will be removed from office.

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