The Senate Trial of President Donald Trump

This week’s Current Event is a continuation of our October 8, 2019 resources about the Impeachment process.

On December 18, 2019, President Donald J. Trump became the third president of the United States ever to be impeached by the House of Representatives. On Thursday, January 16, 2020, The House of Representatives delivered two Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. On Friday, January 17, 2020, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts came to the Senate to be sworn in and then led all senators in an oath of impartiality to open the trial of Donald. J. Trump. On Tuesday, January 21, 2020, almost exactly 3 years after he took the oath of office, President Trump will face a trial in the Senate around the two issues he was impeached for in the House: Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. The resources provided here will give context to the Senate Trial, and provide you with guides to follow what is happening as the trial begins this week. We will be sure to update and add information and resources to this extremely important issue of American democracy as the trial progresses.

The Process

Recall that the Impeachment of President Trump is equivalent to a Grand Jury indictment in our justice system. President trump was impeached (indicted – or accused) of two “high crimes and misdemeanors” (the language in Article I of the Constitution). The first is “Abuse of Power”:

Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election.

The second article is “Obstruction of Congress”:

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States– and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed–Donald J. Trump has directed the unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives pursuant to its “sole Power of Impeachment”.

Beginning Tuesday, January 21, 2020, the Senators of the United States will act as jury while Chief Justice Roberts presides over the trial of President Trump. The Jury (the senators) will hear evidence and possibly the testimony of witnesses (the Senate has not yet decided whether to hear witnesses as part of the trial). The rules of the Senate state that the senators must sit in the trial six days a week for about six hours a day (they will convene at 1pm EST each day and conclude around 5 or 6pm).

Each side will present their case similar to a traditional trial. The prosecutors are chosen House Managers: members of the House of Representatives who led or participated in the investigation and impeachment process. The defense (President Trump) will be represented by attorneys he has chosen. Chief Justice Roberts will preside over the process, but unlike in a jury trial, the jury itself will rule on motions made by either side through a vote.

The first day will include the process of setting the rules for the trial itself, and when that is complete, the prosecution will make their opening arguments. The trial could take several weeks and will be televised live so that Americans can watch and evaluate this Constitutional process set out to demonstrate the balance of powers, accountability, and rule of law as underpinning concepts of American democracy.


Essential Questions:

  • Why might it be important for members of the House, Senate, and Supreme Court to take part in the trial of the President?
  • If you were a juror, what would your first thoughts be after reading the two Articles of Impeachment?
  • What is our civic responsibility as citizens during the Senate Trial of the President?
  • How might this Senate Trial affect the beginning of the 2020 presidential primary season?
  • How might an impeachment affect voter trust in government and/or voter turnout in 2020?





“Finally The Senate Trial is Coming” – The Daily Podcast









“The Senate Prepares for a Trial” – Wall Street Journal Podcast


Recent News Articles:

McConnell Lays Out Plan For Senate Impeachment Trial Procedure – NPR, Jan. 20, 2020

Everything you need to know about Trump’s impeachment process: What’s happened, who the players are, and what comes next – Business Insider, Jan. 13, 2020

Impeachment 101: Your guide to the Senate trial of President Trump – Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 20, 2020

Lawmakers Continue to Spar Over Rules for Senate Impeachment Trial – Wall Street Journal, Jan. 20, 2020

What we know and don’t know about the Senate impeachment trial – CNN, Jan. 20, 2020

A Trump impeachment lawyer says he will defend the president by arguing that even if he did abuse his power, he hasn’t committed any actual crimes – Business Insider, Jan. 20, 2020

New details emerge about Trump’s Senate trial as Democrats protest being kept in the dark – NBC News, Jan. 20, 2020

Trump’s legal team calls on Senate to dismiss impeachment charges – The Week, Jan. 20, 2020

Biden campaign warns against media use of Trump disinformation during impeachment trial – NBC News, Jan. 20, 2020

Senators Know They Don’t Know the Whole Story – The Atlantic, Jan. 19, 2020

Graham: Senate GOP doesn’t ‘have the votes’ to dismiss impeachment trial – Politico, Jan. 19, 2020

Read the Articles of Impeachment Against President Trump – Annotated by Peter Baker, White House Correspondent – NY Times, Dec. 13, 2019

Articles of impeachment delivered to Senate, triggering historic trial of President Trump – ABC News, Dec. 15, 2019



Trump’s lawyers shouldn’t be allowed to use bogus legal arguments on impeachment – Prof. Lawrence Tribe, Washington Post, Jan. 19, 2020

The Prudential Case against Impeachment – Michael Brenden Dougherty, The National Review, Dec. 23, 2019

Trump Meets the Four Tests for Impeachment – Ramesh Ponnuru, The National Review, Dec. 23, 2019

Editorial: No, you can’t have a serious Trump impeachment trial without witnesses – Los Angeles Times, Jan. 16, 2020


Lexile Level – Adjustable Articles (Newsela)

House sends Trump impeachment to Senate, trial to follow – Original Source: Associated Press, Jan. 16, 2020

Trump impeached by U.S. House on two charges – Original Source: Associated Press, Dec. 18, 2019

What you need to know about the impeachment inquiry into Trump – Original Source: Washington Post, 9/30/19

Watergate: The Scandal That Brought Down President Nixon – Original Source:, 3/6/17

Factual Guides about Impeachment:

The House of Representatives Role in Impeachment –

The Senate’s Role in Impeachment –

How Does Impeachment Work: The Step-by-Step Process – Atlanta Journal Constitution

How Does Impeachment Work? – Live Science


Maps & Timelines:

Trump impeachment timeline: key dates leading up to the third presidential impeachment in U.S. history – MarketWatch

House Members Supporting Impeachment – 270towin

A diagram of events in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump – USA Today

Trump Impeachment Inquiry: a Timeline – Los Angeles Times


Primary Sources:

The Articles of Impeachment: Donald J. Trump – Congressional Record

Articles of Impeachment Against Donald J. Trump – pdf

The Senate Rules for Impeachment, 1868

Contextual Primary Documents

The Constitution of the United States – Article 1

The Constitution of the United States – Article 2

Federalist 65 – Alexander Hamilton

The Articles of Impeachment: Andrew Johnson –

The Articles of Impeachment: Richard Nixon –

The Articles of Impeachment: Bill Clinton –


Legal/Constitutional Connections:

The Constitution – Sections on Impeachment – Civics Learning Project

52 U.S. Code § 30121  The law on contributions and donations by foreign nationals – Cornell Law School

High Crimes and Misdemeanors – The Constitutional Rights Foundation

The Constitution and Impeachment – Famous Trials

Legal Discussion of Article 2, Section 4 – Findlaw

Presidential Impeachment: The Legal Standard and Procedure – Findlaw


Lesson Plans on this topic:

The Impeachment Process and President Trump – The Choices Program, Brown University
(this excellent resource has up to date source sets of primary quotes regarding the Trump impeachment process for a deeper dive into this current event as it happens)

Lesson of the Day: Impeachment – New York Times Current Event Lessons

Impeachment – National First Ladies Library

Impeachment Lesson Ideas – Share My Lesson

Daily Updates for Students & Lessons on Impeachment – PBS News Hour


Lesson Plans regarding Media & News Literacy (general):

Media Literacy Resources – Newseum

News & Media Literacy Lessons – Common Sense

Media Misinformation, Viral Deception, and “Fake News” – University of Wyoming

Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News – New York Times Lessons