Former GOP Sen. Trent Lott says Senate on right track for upcoming impeachment trial

He said if need be, Chief Justice John Roberts could act as tie-breaker.

January 15, 2020, 2:57 PM

Former Republican Sen. Trent Lott joined "Powerhouse Politics" on Wednesday, weighing in on the fate of an upcoming Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump, likely to begin next week.

Lott said while it could come down to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts acting as a tie-breaker if votes were to come to an even split -- as was the case of Chief Justice William Renquist during the impeachment trial against former President Bill Clinton -- he didn't think it would come to that.

"I don't think that he or Sen. [Mitch] McConnell or Sen. [Chuck] Schumer would let it come to that," Lott, who served as Senate Majority Leader during the Clinton trial. "Somebody would change their vote ... move around to not put the chief justice in that position."

He added, "I certainly wouldn't if I were the majority leader and saw that coming."

When asked by ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent and podcast host Jon Karl how the vote would play out if the vote was split, he said Roberts would have no choice.

PHOTO: Former Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., is seen at the Capitol as the House debates the articles of impeachment against President Trump, Dec. 18, 2019.
Former Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., is seen at the Capitol as the House debates the articles of impeachment against President Trump, Dec. 18, 2019.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

"I believe that if they did have a vote other than on articles that, you know, this required 51 votes. If there is a 50-50 tie, I think that the chief justice would have to break the tie and not the vice president," Lott told Karl.

Lott also reflected on his efforts to work with then Sen. Minority Leader Tom Daschle to conduct what he called a "successful impeachment trial" in 1999. He provided Karl with more insight for the ongoing trial, the third presidential impeachment trial in history.

When asked how potential witnesses could be brought in for the trial, Lott said he believed that Trump would exert his "executive privilege" and prevent close advisors from testifying -- including White House national security adviser John Bolton.

"The problem is, if that occurs, the only way that can be rectified is that the third branch of government, which is through the court system, which could take a long time." Lott said, however, though other witnesses may be permitted.

However, the question on whether McConnell will even allow live witnesses during the trial is still up in the air.

PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell meets with reporters as the House prepares to send the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 14, 2020.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell meets with reporters as the House prepares to send the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 14, 2020.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The House took a step forward on Wednesday after an almost month-long delay as Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the appointed lawmakers who will serve as the trial managers during the Senate trial. Pelosi named seven managers, including: Reps. Adam Schiff, Jerrald Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, Hakeem Jeffries, Vak Demings, Jason Crow and Sylvia Garcia

"Time has been our friend in all this," she said, adding that since their impeachment vote on Dec. 18, more "incriminating" evidence has surfaced, including the recently released texts from Lev Parnas, a close associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

On Wednesday afternoon, Trump tweeted his reaction to the announcement: "Here we go again, another Con Job by the Do Nothing Democrats. All of this work was supposed to be done by the House, not the Senate!"

Here we go again, another Con Job by the Do Nothing Democrats. All of this work was supposed to be done by the House, not the Senate!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 15, 2020
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