White House predicts Senate trial will last less than two weeks

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The White House believes President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate will not last more than two weeks, arguing the House’s case is so weak that senators will not need to hear from witnesses. 

“I think it’s extraordinarily unlikely we’d be going beyond two weeks,” a senior administration official told reporters Wednesday. “We think this case is overwhelming for the president and the Senate isn’t going to have a need to take that amount of time on this.”

The White House expects there to be a motion in the Senate to dismiss the charges against Trump, insisting that Democrats have produced a flimsy case to impeach the president because the articles themselves do not include an allegation of a crime and would not hold up in a court of law. 

“We think that these articles fail on their face,” the senior official said. “The facts overwhelmingly show that the president did nothing wrong.” 

The White House would not rule out calling its own witnesses in the event senators vote to hear from current or former administration officials, but suggested such a scenario was unlikely. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he hopes to avoid a messy trial with numerous witnesses, several moderate Republicans have indicated they are open to hearing new testimony following opening statements. 

An impeachment trial is expected to kick off in the upper chamber sometime early next week. Should the case last more than two weeks, it would run into Trump’s scheduled State of the Union speech on Feb. 4.

The official declined to detail who specifically will be on the president’s defense team or what their strategy will be, though White House counsel Pat Cipollone and attorney Jay Sekulow will play prominent roles. Trump’s team is unlikely to present a days-long defense of his conduct as was the case during former President Clinton’s trial, however.

Trump has mulled adding House lawmakers to his defense team though there hasn’t been an announcement one way or another, and Senate Republicans have cautioned the president against such a move. The official said Wednesday an announcement would be made soon but didn’t offer a timeline. 

“What we will present is a very strong case for the president, and the reason it doesn’t take a long time is … the facts are simple and the facts are on the president’s side,” the official said. 

The House voted Wednesday to transmit the articles of impeachment accusing Trump of abusing his power and obstructing Congress to the Senate, after moving in December to impeach Trump in a vote that fell mostly along party lines.

The vote Wednesday came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) delayed sending the articles to the upper chamber, seeking leverage as Democrats pressed the GOP-controlled Senate to call witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton. 

Pelosi earlier Wednesday also named the seven lawmakers who will serve as impeachment managers to present the House’s case during the trial. The group will be led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee’s chairman, who presided over several weeks of impeachment hearings in October and November.

Trump hadn’t weighed in extensively on impeachment as of early Wednesday afternoon, only tweeting following Pelosi’s press conference that Democrats were engaged in a “con job.”

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham also accused Pelosi of focusing on “politics instead of the American people” and lying when she described the impeachment process as urgent, adding that Trump expected to be “fully exonerated” by the Senate.

“President Trump has done nothing wrong. He looks forward to having the due process rights in the Senate that Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats denied to him, and expects to be fully exonerated,” Grisham said.

Tags Adam Schiff Bill Clinton Donald Trump Impeachment Jay Sekulow John Bolton Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Stephanie Grisham

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