Senate Impeachment Trial Resources

Few people today know what a high-stakes Senate impeachment trial would look like. That’s worrisome given Mitch McConnell’s, R-Ky., admission this week that the Senate would have no choice but to hold a trial if the House impeaches President Trump. 

The resources below will help readers get up to speed on the ins and outs of the procedures that govern the Senate’s proceedings when it is sitting as a court of impeachment.

Impeachment Rules

There are 26 rules of procedure that govern the Senate’s proceedings when it is sitting on impeachment trials. These rules were last revised in 1986. They are designed to facilitate impeachment trials fairly and expeditiously. The 1986 revision can be found here. The report issued by the Committee on Rules and Administration in 1986 to accompany the revision explains succinctly both the Impeachment Rules and the changes adopted by the Senate that year. The report can be found here.

Procedures and Guidelines for Impeachment Trials 

Floyd M. Riddick’s report, “Procedure and Guidelines for Impeachment Trials in the United States Senate,” as ordered to be reprinted by the Senate in 1986 cites the constitutional authorities relating to impeachment, details the Senate’s impeachment rules, and describes the general sequence of events at the beginning and end of impeachment trials. It also includes the applicable precedents and practices that have governed impeachment trials in the past. Riddick’s report can be found here.

The chapter in Riddick’s Senate Procedure on impeachments can be found here.

Historical Record

Excerpts from the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson can be found here. They detail the debate between senators over a motion to table an order to lift the cap on the number of people allowed to speak at the end of an impeachment trial.

Excerpts from the 1926 impeachment trial of George W. English can be found here. They detail debate between senators over whether the Senate can move to dismiss articles of impeachment at the request of the House. English had resigned, prompting the House to request that the Senate dismiss the trial. Senators debated the issue before voting to do so on the grounds that English was no longer eligible to be impeached, thereby rendering a verdict of guilty/not guilty irrelevant.

Excerpts from the 1936 impeachment trial of Halsted L. Ritter can be found here. They detail the effort by Ritter’s counsel to move to strike a subset of the articles of impeachment. In response, the presiding officer ruled that the motion to strike was not in order and senators upheld the ruling on appeal.

Supplementary Rules

The Senate adopted supplementary rules during the Clinton impeachment trial by passing two resolutions. The text of both S. Res. 16 and S. Res. 30 can be found here and here.