The Senate trial over the House Democrats’ two articles of impeachment against President Trump — for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — officially began Thursday, when Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Senators, but the trial begins in earnest Tuesday afternoon with a vote on the procedural rules, followed by the opening arguments from both sides. Here’s what to expect in the coming days.
The first order of business is the setting of the rules for the trial, the debate over which begins at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday. Though it hasn’t officially begun yet, the rules debate is already heated.
On Monday, McConnell released the Republicans’ resolution outlining the schedule and rules for the impeachment proceedings — and was met with Democrat allegations that Republicans are attempting to fast-track the proceedings in order to “cover up” Trump’s alleged misconduct.
The Republicans have given the next step the window of 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning: the filing of initial motions and responses to those motions by the Democrats’ team of impeachment managers and Trump’s impeachment team, as outlined in the Senate Republican resolution:
The President and the House of Representatives shall have until 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 22, 2020, to file any motions permitted under the rules of impeachment with the exception of motions to subpoena witnesses or documents or any other evidentiary motions. Responses to any such motions shall be filed no later than 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 22, 2020. All materials filed pursuant to this paragraph shall be filed with the Secretary and be printed and made available to all parties.
Beginning at 1 p.m. Wednesday, both parties will have a chance to present arguments on the motions. “Arguments on such motions shall begin at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 22, 2020, and each side may determine the number of persons to make its presentation, following which the Senate shall deliberate, if so ordered under the impeachment rules, and vote on any such motions,” the Republican resolution specifies.
Next will be the opening arguments from each side, which have been given a maximum of 24 hours for each team. The decision to limit the opening arguments to two days total, CNN notes, “indicates Senate Republicans are pushing to finish the trial as quickly as possible — ahead of the President’s February 4 State of the Union address.” The Republican resolution reads:
Following the disposition of such motions, or if no motions are made, then the House of Representatives shall make its presentation in support of the articles of impeachment for a period of time not to exceed 24 hours, over up to 2 session days. Following the House of Representatives’ presentation, the President shall make his presentation for a period not to exceed 24 hours, over up to 2 session days. Each side may determine the number of persons to make its presentation.
Republicans are limiting the total hours for Senators to questions both parties to 16 hours, followed by a maximum of 2 hours of response arguments for each party:
Upon the conclusion of the President’s presentation, Senators may question the parties for a period of time not to exceed 16 hours. Upon the conclusion of questioning by the Senate, there shall be 4 hours of argument by the parties, equally divided, followed by deliberation by the Senate, if so ordered under the impeachment rules, on the question of whether it shall be in order to consider and debate under the impeachment rules any motion to subpoena witnesses or documents.
The Senate will then vote on whether or not “to consider and debate under the impeachment rules any motion to subpoena witnesses or documents.”
“Following the disposition of that question, other motions provided under the impeachment rules shall be in order,” the resolution concludes. “If the Senate agrees to allow either the House of Representatives or the President to subpoena witnesses, the witnesses shall first be deposed and the Senate shall decide after deposition which witnesses shall testify, pursuant to the impeachment rules. No testimony shall be admissible in the Senate unless the parties have had an opportunity to depose such witnesses.”
The final step will be whether to convict or acquit Trump on the two articles of impeachment.