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Impeachment Ceremonial Proceedings Continue As Senators Sworn In As Jurors

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Impeachment is now in the Senate. The trial begins next Tuesday. But today the senators and John Roberts, the chief justice of the United States, prepared for the trial. Roberts was sworn in, and he in turn swore in the 99 senators who were present.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN ROBERTS: Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?

UNIDENTIFIED SENATORS: I do.

CORNISH: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales has been following all of it today. She joins us now from Capitol Hill. And Claudia, let's begin - because today was all about that ceremony. Right?

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Right.

CORNISH: This is just the ceremony to set up the substance of the trial next week. Explain what they needed to do.

GRISALES: There are a few things they needed to do to prepare for the actual arguments. The impeachment managers presented the articles, which means they had to read them aloud to the senators. Then the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, was sworn in because he will preside over this trial. And then he swore in most of the senators who will act as jurors in this trial, which will begin in earnest on Tuesday. One member was missing because of a family medical issue - Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma. But he is expected to be sworn in just before that trial begins.

CORNISH: I know from covering Congress, usually you have all kinds of access to lawmakers, can kind of chase them down in the halls. But today, not the same - right? What's going on?

GRISALES: Not at all. The Senate Republican leadership has really cracked down and imposed serious new restrictions for where reporters can and can't be. We're used to upped security for high-profile ceremonial events, like the State of the Union address and presidential visits. But this is on another level. For example, reporters are usually able to approach senators as they make their way into the Capitol and ask questions, and they're used to it. Most of them respond, and they know that's their chance to share their perspectives.

But again, that all changed today. We're penned into much smaller areas. We can't go up with the lawmakers without their direct approval. And this all means it will be that much harder to share those perspectives during the trial phase.

CORNISH: Which is understandable because essentially, they are jurors, right? I mean, walk us through what comes next.

GRISALES: Well, going back to these media restrictions, it's not because they are jurors. But it's pretty clear that some Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are trying to limit our access and using this trial and its timing as an excuse to do that.

Some of them have already said that they are not impartial jurors, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Speaking of, he's expected to finally reveal the details of a resolution on Tuesday that will establish the first phase of this trial. He's already said that he's shared details with members of his party. He has enough support to approve it. And it very much mimics the opening phase of the Clinton impeachment trial, allowing for opening arguments by the prosecution and defense teams. Then there will be a period for written questions for senators. And after that, lawmakers will need to address major controversial questions about whether they'll call witnesses into the proceedings.

CORNISH: And the White House?

GRISALES: And the White House continues to take the stance that this trial is a sham. Just this afternoon, the president repeated that position. He said it's a sham, and he's confident he'll be acquitted.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thanks so much.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.