Rules For Impeachment Trial Are Old-School

Rules For Impeachment Trial Are Old-School

Rules For Impeachment Trial Are Old-School

With the impeachment trial due to start on Tuesday, the rules that a trial in the Senate will require are old-fashioned, but nearly everyone agrees that they are necessary.

The Senate was formally sworn in as jurors in the impeachment trial on Thursday, where they actually had to put their signatures to the oath book.

While a ceremony like this is meant to convey the gravity of the situation (instead of, say, grinning like crazy people while you wave your new souvenir pens – notice that the Senate only used one pen?), the rules that will follow are going to feel positively antiquated in the 21st century. There will be no talking among the senators, and – more importantly – no electronic devices. Bye-bye, smartphones.

In addition to the mandatory silence, the official decorum guidelines say that electronic devices, including cell phones, are not permitted in the Senate chamber during the trial.”

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas commented that it will “be a new experience for a lot of my colleagues (to) not be able to talk and not be able to consult our email or text messages. But we’ll live through it, it’ll be alright,” adding, “it’s obviously a very serious and grave matter so we should be paying attention.”

Cornyn predicted, however, that “frustration will build,” especially since the proceedings will limit the ability to get anything else done, and called the ban on electronics “the coup de grace.”

Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said that Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer warned lawmakers weeks ago that electronics won’t be allowed.”

Schumer “basically said, just be aware that you won’t have your devices, and it’ll just be a totally different environment,” Casey said, adding, “The rule is no devices on the floor generally, but it will be strictly enforced.”

What this really means is that the senators won’t be tweeting out updates from the trial on a minute-by-minute basis. Their staffs will still have access to their Twitter accounts, but they won’t have any way to communicate with their bosses, so expect to see a sharp decrease in real-time social media communication. I’m sure there will still be pre-approved comments that staff will be authorized to send out, during the course of the trial, so while it might have the senator’s name on it, the actual communication is coming from staff. These rules will be hardest on the younger senators, who probably rely less on their staff to send out their tweets, and are used to having a iPhone or laptop on hand to connect in at all times.

And as for the “no talking” rules, there are workarounds in place to allow senators to confer with each other outside of the Senate chambers. However, this will require a “closed session” that will be limited to senators only – which means no media, no House impeachment managers, no defense team. So, in other words, no grandstanding. (Could we keep this rule at all times?)

Who will these rules also be really hard on? The remaining Democrats who are still running for president. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Michael Bennet (yes, he’s still in this for some reason), and Amy Klobuchar have essentially suspended their campaigns to be present at the impeachment trial. That has to be chafing on them as Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg (who is running South Bend right now, anyway?) get to talk all they want in Iowa, while these four candidates are undertaking a vow of silence during the day for the foreseeable future.

What’s also going to put a crimp in those campaigns? While not spelled out in the rules, the Senate is anticipating being in session on Saturdays to get the trial moving faster. So, there is no escaping Washington DC for those campaign stops in Iowa on the weekend (and contributing to climate change with all those plane trips, for shame) until this trial is finished. Those presidential candidates are probably cursing Nancy Pelosi every time they enter the Senate chamber at this point.

The impeachment trial rules are likely to prove quite confining to the senators, but should keep this trial moving at a reasonably steady pace (as compared to, say, the Kavanaugh hearings where the senators would NOT shut up because they knew the cameras were on them). Barring some unknown bombshell, we all know what the end result of this trial is going to be, due to the House’s rushed job. Let’s just get this over with.

Featured image via Pixabay, cropped, Pixabay license

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1 Comment
  • GWB says:

    notice that the Senate only used one pen?
    Yes, that was fantastic.

    These rules will be hardest on the younger senators, who probably rely less on their staff to send out their tweets
    Can we keep AOC in this state all the time?

    (Could we keep this rule at all times?)
    We could. If we made sure that constituents could hang around with tar and feathers……

    get the trial moving faster
    Noooo, let’s drag it out. All the way to the Democrat convention………

    But, actually, I agree – get it over with. (And, yes, I think immediately after the House makes its case, McConnell should call for dismissal, with prejudice, on the basis that no actual crimes have been alleged in the articles of impeachment, as delivered.

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