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.

ByMel Madarang and Steff Thomas
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

The House also voted on Wednesday to formally send the impeachment articles to the Senate.

PHOTO: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces the House of Representatives managers for the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 15, 2020.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces the House of Representatives managers for the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 15, 2020.
Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Current and former lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed their disagreement over the rules and procedures.

Karl asked Lott if he had any advice for McConnell, who has not reached out directly to the former majority leader for counsel.

"I think he's on the right track by saying, ‘Look, we've got a template here.’ It was done with Clinton and it was done successfully," Lott said, looking back on his relationship with Daschle and how they worked together to establish the trial rules.

Their efforts included joint-press conferences and constant communication, which ultimately produced the framework for how the Clinton impeachment trial would proceed despite the partisanship.

Lott also witnessed the Richard Nixon impeachment trial while serving on the House Judiciary Committee -- where he said he even argued against one of the articles.

"I sort of began my career in Congress with an impeachment proceeding," Lott said, adding "So I guess I've learned more about impeachment proceedings than anybody would ever really want to know in back in the Nixon impeachment."

Powerhouse Politics podcast is a weekly program that posts every Wednesday, and includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. Powerhouse Politics podcast is hosted by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.

Related Topics

The House also voted on Wednesday to formally send the impeachment articles to the Senate.

Current and former lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed their disagreement over the rules and procedures.

Karl asked Lott if he had any advice for McConnell, who has not reached out directly to the former majority leader for counsel.

\"I think he's on the right track by saying, ‘Look, we've got a template here.’ It was done with Clinton and it was done successfully,\" Lott said, looking back on his relationship with Daschle and how they worked together to establish the trial rules.

Their efforts included joint-press conferences and constant communication, which ultimately produced the framework for how the Clinton impeachment trial would proceed despite the partisanship.

Lott also witnessed the Richard Nixon impeachment trial while serving on the House Judiciary Committee -- where he said he even argued against one of the articles.

\"I sort of began my career in Congress with an impeachment proceeding,\" Lott said, adding \"So I guess I've learned more about impeachment proceedings than anybody would ever really want to know in back in the Nixon impeachment.\"

Powerhouse Politics podcast is a weekly program that posts every Wednesday, and includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. Powerhouse Politics podcast is hosted by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.

","publishedDate":"2020-01-15T19:57:00Z","contributors":[{"name":"Mel Madarang","url":"","role":"","logo":"","logoAlt":""},{"name":"Steff Thomas ","url":"https://abcnews.go.com/author/steff_thomas","role":"","logo":"","logoAlt":""}],"modifiedDate":"2020-01-16T15:09:26Z","section":"Politics","wordCount":771,"relatedTags":{"heading":"Related Topics","tags":[{"label":"Impeachment","href":"/alerts/Impeachment"}]},"lead":{"ratio":"16x9","disableForMobile":false,"type":"xl","mediaType":"video","alignCaptionToBody":true},"ads":{"Sticky":{"kvps":{"test":true}},"RightRail":{"kvps":{"test":true}},"InlineBox":{},"InlineOutstream":{"disabled":false},"Taboola":{"position":"bottom","pageType":"article","config":{"network":"abcnews-abcnews","mode":"thumbnails-a","container":"taboola-below-article-thumbnails","type":"article","targetType":"mix","placement":"Below Article Thumbnails"}}},"featuredVideo":{"id":"63806889","type":"video","locator":"https://abcnews.go.com/US/video/news-headlines-today-dec-23-2020-63806889","issued":"2020-12-23T23:06:55Z","created":"2020-12-23T23:06:55Z","modified":"2020-12-23T23:06:57Z","date":"2020-12-23T23:06:55Z","keywords":["covid-19","cdc","vaccine","robert redfield","ivanka trump","deposition","trump hotel","coronavirus","relief package","unemployment benefits","california","wildfires","weather","abc news","Video","63806889"],"section":"US","title":"News headlines today: Dec. 23, 2020","headline":"News headlines today: Dec. 23, 2020","shortHeadline":"News headlines today: Dec. 23, 2020","linkHeadline":"News headlines today: Dec. 23, 2020","description":"Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.","leadInText":"Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.","duration":387000,"contents":{"image":{"id":"64067410","created":"2019-07-01T17:11:56Z","modified":"2020-12-23T23:01:37Z","credit":"ABCNews.com","crops":[{"name":"raw","ratio":"16x9","url":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/190701_vod_live_headlines_hpMain_16x9_992.jpg"},{"name":"12x5","ratio":"12x5","url":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/190701_vod_live_headlines_hpMain_12x5_992.jpg"},{"name":"16x9","ratio":"16x9","url":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/190701_vod_live_headlines_hpMain_16x9_992.jpg"},{"name":"1x1","ratio":"1x1","url":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/190701_vod_live_headlines_hpMain_1x1_992.jpg"},{"name":"4x3","ratio":"4x3","url":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/190701_vod_live_headlines_hpMain_4x3_992.jpg"},{"name":"4x5","ratio":"4x5","url":"https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/190701_vod_live_headlines_hpMain_4x5_992.jpg"}],"description":"VIDEO: News headlines today: July 1, 2019"},"playlist":[{"id":"63806889","type":"video","streams":{"m3u8":{"16x9":"https://service-pkgabcnews.akamaized.net/opp/hls/abcnews/2020/12/201223_abcnl_headlines_5pm_,500,800,1200,1800,2500,3200,4500,.mp4.csmil/playlist.m3u8"}}},{"id":"41463246","type":"video","streams":{"m3u8":{"16x9":"https://content.uplynk.com/channel/3324f2467c414329b3b0cc5cd987b6be.m3u8?rays=hjigfedcba&ad.flex=15&ad.access_level=0&expand=drmOff&v=3"},"shield":{"16x9":"https://watch.auth.api.espn.com/video/auth/media/86459fc7-f7f8-4803-9f03-cf7a05eab9b5/asset"}}}]},"streams":{"m3u8":{"16x9":"https://service-pkgabcnews.akamaized.net/opp/hls/abcnews/2020/12/201223_abcnl_headlines_5pm_,500,800,1200,1800,2500,3200,4500,.mp4.csmil/playlist.m3u8"}},"transcript":{},"alertTag":"","sectionRoot":"US","adFlag":true,"noAds":false,"isAmbient":false,"sponsored":false,"hideDate":false,"hideReportTypo":false},"featuredImage":null,"dateline":"","seo":{"JSONLD":{"videoObject":{"name":"News headlines today: Dec. 23, 2020","description":"Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.","uploadDate":"2020-12-23T23:06:55Z","thumbnailUrl":["https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/190701_vod_live_headlines_hpMain_1x1_992.jpg?w=384","https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/190701_vod_live_headlines_hpMain_4x3_992.jpg?w=384","https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/190701_vod_live_headlines_hpMain_16x9_992.jpg?w=384"],"url":"https://service-pkgabcnews.akamaized.net/opp/hls/abcnews/2020/12/201223_abcnl_headlines_5pm_,500,800,1200,1800,2500,3200,4500,.mp4.csmil/playlist.m3u8","contentUrl":"https://service-pkgabcnews.akamaized.net/opp/hls/abcnews/2020/12/201223_abcnl_headlines_5pm_,500,800,1200,1800,2500,3200,4500,.mp4.csmil/playlist.m3u8","publisher":{"name":"ABC News","logo":{"url":"","@type":"ImageObject"},"@type":"Organization"},"mainEntityOfPage":{"@type":"WebPage","id":"https://abcnews.go.com/US/video/news-headlines-today-dec-23-2020-63806889"},"duration":"PT6M27S"}}},"LivePromotion":{}},"autoUpdate":{"enabled":false,"topics":["general-elections-2020-balance-of-power"]}},"upw":{"balanceOfPower":{"electoral":{"header":"Biden Projected to be President-Elect","candidates":{"democrats":{"id":1036,"displayName":"Joe Biden","shortDisplayName":"J. Biden","firstName":"Joe","lastName":"Biden","party":"democrats","major":true,"incumbent":false,"winner":true,"votes":306},"republicans":{"id":8639,"displayName":"Donald Trump","shortDisplayName":"D. Trump","firstName":"Donald","lastName":"Trump","party":"republicans","major":true,"incumbent":true,"winner":false,"votes":232},"other":{"displayName":"Other","votes":0}},"parties":{"democrats":"democrats","republicans":"republicans"},"type":"electoral","votes":{"democrats":{"available":{},"total":306,"difference":{},"popular":{"displayValue":"81,283,098","value":81283098}},"republicans":{"available":{},"total":232,"difference":{},"popular":{"displayValue":"74,222,958","value":74222958}},"other":{"available":{},"total":0,"popular":{}},"total":538},"needed":{"displayText":"270 to win","displayValue":"270","value":270},"lastUpdated":{"value":"2020-12-18T21:15:13.850Z","displayValue":"December 18, 4:15:13PM ET"},"reporting":"99% of Expected Vote Reporting"},"senate":{"header":"Senate Seat Results","candidates":{"democrats":{"displayName":"Democrats","icon":"party-democrats","votes":46,"winner":false},"republicans":{"displayName":"Republicans","icon":"party-republicans","votes":50,"winner":false},"other":{"displayName":"Other","votes":2}},"parties":{"democrats":"democrats","republicans":"republicans"},"type":"senate","votes":{"democrats":{"available":{"displayText":"12 Democrats up for election","shortDisplayText":"12 Dems. up for election","displayValue":"12","value":12},"total":46,"difference":{"displayText":"Gained 1 seat","displayValue":"1","value":1},"popular":{}},"republicans":{"available":{"displayText":"23 Republicans up for election","shortDisplayText":"23 Reps. up for election","displayValue":"23","value":23},"total":50,"difference":{"displayText":"Lost 1 seat","displayValue":"-1","value":-1},"popular":{}},"other":{"available":{"displayText":"0 Others up for election","shortDisplayText":"0 Others up for election","displayValue":"0","value":0},"total":2,"popular":{}},"total":100},"needed":{"displayText":"51 for control","displayValue":"51","value":51},"lastUpdated":{"value":"2020-12-17T18:22:05.390Z","displayValue":"December 17, 1:22:05PM ET"}},"house":{"header":"House Results: Dems Retain Control","candidates":{"democrats":{"displayName":"Democrats","icon":"party-democrats","votes":222,"winner":true},"republicans":{"displayName":"Republicans","icon":"party-republicans","votes":210,"winner":false},"other":{"displayName":"Other","votes":0}},"parties":{"democrats":"democrats","republicans":"republicans"},"type":"house","votes":{"democrats":{"available":{"displayText":"233 Democrats up for election","shortDisplayText":"233 Dems. up for election","displayValue":"233","value":233},"total":222,"difference":{"displayText":"Lost 10 seats","displayValue":"-10","value":-10},"popular":{}},"republicans":{"available":{"displayText":"201 Republicans up for election","shortDisplayText":"201 Reps. up for election","displayValue":"201","value":201},"total":210,"difference":{"displayText":"Gained 10 seats","displayValue":"10","value":10},"popular":{}},"other":{"available":{"displayText":"1 Others up for election","shortDisplayText":"1 Others up for election","displayValue":"1","value":1},"total":0,"popular":{}},"total":435},"needed":{"displayText":"218 for control","displayValue":"218","value":218},"lastUpdated":{"value":"2020-12-17T18:22:02.900Z","displayValue":"December 17, 1:22:02PM ET"}},"lastUpdated":{"value":"2020-12-18T21:15:13.850Z","displayValue":"December 18, 4:15:13PM ET"},"autoUpdate":{"enabled":false,"topics":["general-elections-2020-balance-of-power"]},"electionsConfig":{}},"types":["electoral","senate","house"]}},"analytics":{"accountID":"wdgnewabcnews,wdgasec,wdgnewabcnweb,wdgnewabcnewsrollup","ns":"abcnews","pageName":"abcn:politics:story","pageType":"story","pageUrl":"abcnews.go.com/Politics/sen-trent-lott-senate-track-impeachment-trial-week/story?id=68269435&userab=abcn_web_article_ts-218*variant_c-820","globalSpecVersion":"v1.08","siteDifferentiator":"abcn:site","tagID":"apage_news01","userABCookie":"abcn_web_article_ts-218*variant_c-820","alertTag":"Impeachment","authors":"Mel Madarang, Steff Thomas ","authorsBureau":"none","authorsUnit":"none","dateline":"none","id":"68269435","modDate":"2020-01-16","mediaOnPage":"video","modTime":"10:09","provider":"ABC News","pubDate":"2020-01-15","pubTime":"14:57","section":"Politics","subBrand":"none","title":"Former GOP Sen. Trent Lott says Senate on right track for upcoming impeachment trial","videoId":"63806889","videoName":"News headlines today: Dec. 23, 2020","wordCount":771},"taboola":{"config":{"network":"abcnews-abcnews","mode":"thumbnails-a","type":"other","targetType":"mix","placement":null,"pageTypeOverrides":{"story":{"mode":"thumbnails-a","type":"article","targetType":"mix","placement":"Below Article Thumbnails"},"home":{"mode":"thumbnails-b","container":"taboola-homepage-thumbnails","type":"home","targetType":"mix","placement":"Homepage Thumbnails"},"section":{"mode":"thumbnails-b","type":"category","targetType":"mix","placement":"Section Front Thumbnails"},"liveBlog":{"mode":"thumbnails-d","type":"other","targetType":"mix","placement":"Blog"}}}}},"request":{"headers":{},"httpVersion":"1.1","method":"GET","url":"/Politics/sen-trent-lott-senate-track-impeachment-trial-week/story?id=68269435&userab=abcn_web_article_ts-218*variant_c-820","vary":{"host":"abcnews.go.com","cached":true,"path":"/Politics/sen-trent-lott-senate-track-impeachment-trial-week/story","forwarded-proto":"https","device":"desktop","country":"us","userab":"abcn_web_article_ts-218*variant_c-820","region":"gdpr"}},"viewport":{"width":1260,"height":0},"user":{}};