If the House votes to impeach President Trump, his case will move to a Senate trial. And senators may look to Bill Clinton’s trial as a guideline.
If the House of Representatives approves articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump, senators will be tasked with conducting a trial for just the second time in modern history. And they may look to President Bill Clinton’s case as a guide to navigate largely uncharted territory.
“It was the first trial of an impeachment of a president since the 1860s, so there really was no precedent,” said David Hawkings, editor-in-chief of The Fulcrum. “The Senate sort of had to sit down and decide for itself, ‘Well, how are we going to conduct this trial?'”
The Constitution lays out a few ground rules for an impeachment trial: The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial while the senators act as jurors. It takes a two-thirds supermajority to convict the president.
But the rest of the process is left up to the Senate to decide. In 1999, the Senate voted 100-0 on rules to conduct President Clinton’s trial.
“They knew the end of the movie, they just didn’t know how they were going to get there. They knew there would be nothing close to a two-thirds majority to convict Bill Clinton,” Hawkings said. “But, they also knew that they didn’t want to make a joke of it, that they wanted to take is seriously that they wanted to look like they were doing their duty. The 100-nothing deal was to make it look that way.