Posted by Tod Lindberg on 4th January 1999
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Presiding
It will begin like this: The presiding officer of the U.S. Senate will ask the man before him in the Senate chamber, William H. Rehnquist, the chief justice of the United States, to raise his right hand and take this oath: “I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton, president of the United States, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws: so help me God.” Rehnquist, in turn, will administer the same oath to all the members of the Senate, sitting as a jury. This will likely occur on or about January 7. And the trial to determine whether Bill Clinton will be removed from office will get underway.
If such a trial comes to pass, inevitably, it’s going to have a certain majesty — in fact, a majesty out of all proportion to the tawdry conduct about which Clinton lied and obstructed justice, according to the articles of impeachment passed by the House. The Senate is well-practiced in trying to fake solemnity, albeit with mixed success. With the chief justice presiding over the Senate trial of an impeached president for only the second time in history, however, the solemnity is going to be genuine.