Four Basic Principles for a Full, Transparent, and Fair Impeachment Trial
Article I of the Constitution grants the House the sole power of impeachment, and if the House does impeach, the Senate the “sole power to try all impeachments.” It also provides that the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court will preside if the trial involves a president. The Constitution authorizes the Senate to “determine the rules of its proceedings,” including additional rules governing an impeachment trial by the Senate. The Senate has established and may modify its own rules supplementing these constitutional requirements. Four principles for a full, fair and transparent trial.
- Trial procedures should be established before the trial commences. A trial can only be fair if the rules are agreed to in advance. For that reason, any supplemental rules or modifications to the existing rules should be agreed to before the trial commences.
- The Senate should hear the full case before voting on the President’s removal. The Senate must allow members of the House to present the case for the President’s removal and the President should be afforded an opportunity to respond. Both should occur before a vote to dispose of or approve an article of impeachment.
- The trial should be open to the public. An impeachment trial of a president is a matter of exceptional importance to the American people. They should be able to understand the case for the President’s removal and the President’s defense. The doors to the Senate chamber should be open and the American people permitted to witness the proceedings to the extent possible. Transparency should only be sacrificed to advance compelling interests such as the sanctity of Senate deliberations, the need to protect legitimately classified information, or the recognition of a whistleblower’s right to anonymity.
- Each Senator should take seriously his or her oath to “do impartial justice” and to “support and defend the Constitution.” The question is not whether to support the President. The question is whether the President has committed treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors within the meaning of the