At 80, Vermont's Sen. Leahy ready to run impeachment trial

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Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the president pro tempore of the Senate, pauses in a corridor off the Rotunda as he awaits the article of impeachment against Donald Trump to be delivered, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. The Senate's longest-serving member, 80-year-old Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, was taken to a hospital Tuesday evening for observation after not feeling well, a spokesman said. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite))

WASHINGTON – He's known for prowling the Capitol with his camera or friends like the rock icon Bono. He's played leading roles in fights over Supreme Court nominations, government surveillance of Americans and protecting his state's dairy farms.

Now, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont is stepping into one of his most visible and physically grueling roles: presiding over former President Donald Trump's second Senate impeachment trial. Leahy, the Senate's longest-serving current member, will be doing it after a brief health scare that saw him taken by ambulance to a hospital Tuesday evening, only to gavel the Senate into order Wednesday morning.

“I had some muscle spasms," Leahy, 80, told reporters the morning after feeling ill in his Capitol office. He was taken to nearby George Washington University Hospital and went home shortly afterward.

He, aides and colleagues have revealed little about what happened. Leahy said doctors gave him a clean bill of health, and his spokesperson, David Carle, said Leahy “will still preside" when Trump's latest impeachment proceedings begin next month.

The Leahy that America will see when the trial begins walks Congress' hallways amiably but more slowly than when he was first elected at age 34. A longtime skier, target shooter and photographer despite being almost blind in one eye — he won't say which — he is the product of a long Senate run.

He's among a handful of senators who has voted on the nomination of every current Supreme Court justice, backing the three Democratic appointees and opposing the Republican picks except for Chief Justice John Roberts. He's tried banning landmines, hence his friendship with fellow landmine opponent Bono, and helped shape legislation on gun control, privacy rights, government surveillance and patents.

He's a Batman fanatic who's appeared in some of the genre's films and a Grateful Dead aficionado who wears ties designed by its lead guitarist, Jerry Garcia.

Entering his 47th year in the chamber, the man who will oversee Trump's trial on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection is the last of the so-called “Watergate Babies,” the congressional Democrats carried into office in 1974 after President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace to avoid impeachment.