The much anticipated Trump’s impeachment trial begins on Tuesday and the partisan divide is evident once again in the rules and processes.
A vote on whether to call witnesses to testify in the Senate will commence after opening arguments have concluded.
The proposed rules which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., released Monday evening, are similar but not identical to the format of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999. McConnell’s rules would set aside up to four hours of debate, equally divided between both sides, on whether there should be subpoenas for witnesses or documents, and then the full Senate would vote on the issue.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., could seek to amend the rules Tuesday to ensure that his side can call witnesses, a process that could take several hours and could even include closed-door debates. McConnell maintains that he has the votes to largely follow the Clinton blueprint regardless of Democratic maneuvering. Once the rules are approved by a majority, opening arguments are expected to begin this week.
The House managers — essentially prosecutors — spent the weekend submitting briefs laying out why the Senate should remove Trump from office. The president’s newly announced legal team submitted filings explaining why he should be acquitted.
Who’s the ‘judge?
Roberts will preside over the trial, but his role is more limited than that of a judge in a courtroom. He would rule on evidentiary questions or pass them along for the Senate to vote on. The Senate can override Roberts’ decisions with a majority vote.
The entire Senate is the jury, but it also has some judge-like powers. In addition to voting on procedures and evidence, senators can submit objections to Roberts. They’re not allowed to directly question attorneys for the two sides, but they can offer questions to Roberts, who will read them.
Who are the prosecutors?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., last week announced the seven House Democrats who will act as the case managers: Schiff, the lead manager; Jerry Nadler and Hakeem Jeffries of New York; Jason Crow of Colorado; Zoe Lofgren of California; Val Demings of Florida; and Sylvia Garcia of Texas.Who’s on Trump’s team?
Trump’s defense team is being led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow has a leadership role, as well. The president added some surprising names to his team, including former independent counsel Ken Starr, who investigated Clinton, and the famed defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz.
Also on board are former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Robert Ray, who succeeded Starr as the Clinton independent counsel.How long are opening arguments?
Following the Clinton playbook, each side would have up to 24 hours to present its opening statement. Neither side has to use the all of its time. The 24 hours would be split over two days for each side; during Clinton’s trial, time was spaced out over three days. The trial is expected to take place six days a week, Monday through Saturday.What happens then?
In the Clinton case, opening arguments were followed by a 16-hour question period, in which senators submitted questions for both sides to the chief justice. Then came a vote to dismiss the case, which failed, and then a vote on whether to hear from witnesses.
The Senate decided to depose three witnesses on video, and parts of their testimony were played during the trial.
Republicans would need 51 votes to dismiss the case, and there are 53 Republican senators, but there’s little interest in the GOP in tossing out the case. Some moderate Republicans, including Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, have said they’d be open to calling witnesses. Democrats would need four Republicans to side with them for that to happen.Who are potential witnesses?
Schumer has named four people whom Democrats want to testify: acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; Robert Blair, senior adviser to Mulvaney; Michael Duffey, associate director for national security at the Office of Management and Budget; and former national security adviser John Bolton.
All four were asked to testify during the House impeachment inquiry last year, but they didn’t at the direction of the White House.
Democrats’ best bet might be Bolton, who has said he has new relevant information and would testify if subpoenaed by the Senate. Romney has said he’d “love to hear” what Bolton has to say.