Five lingering questions as impeachment heads to Senate

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on Attacking the Affordable Care Act in the time of COVID-19 DC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill MORE (D-Calif.) on Friday ended weeks of speculation surrounding the Democrats' impeachment effort, announcing the House would vote as early as next week to send a pair of articles to the Senate. 

The move is indication that the Speaker, who'd delayed the transmission of the articles in an effort to win procedural concessions from Senate GOP leaders, is ready to launch the trial in the upper chamber despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner Struggling states warn coronavirus stimulus falls short Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike MORE's (R-Ky.) refusal to accept her demands.

Yet there are plenty of lingering questions about how the esoteric process will unfold over the next several weeks, as both sides vie for an upper hand in the high-stakes debate over the propriety of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Coronavirus hits defense contractor jobs Wake up America, your country doesn't value your life MORE’s handling of foreign policy in Ukraine.

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Here are five outstanding questions as the articles move from the House to the Senate.

When, exactly, will the trial begin? 

While Pelosi on Friday expressed a new willingness to send the Senate the two impeachment resolutions — one charging Trump with abuse of power, the other with obstruction of Congress — she stopped short of scheduling a vote to do so. 

Instead, she said she’s “asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Judiciary Committee postpones hearing with Barr amid coronavirus outbreak House Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol: 'We are the captains of this ship' MORE (D-N.Y.) to be prepared to bring” a procedural measure to the floor “next week” to designate the still unnamed impeachment managers and dispatch the articles to the upper chamber. That resolution could technically be passed in a flash, by unanimous consent, but House Republicans are expected to force a more formal roll-call vote to highlight support from vulnerable Democrats. 

Before the decision to vote is finalized, Pelosi said she’ll seek input from rank-and-file Democrats “on how we proceed further” — a meeting of the caucus that’s scheduled for Tuesday morning in the Capitol. 

That consultation is largely a formality, as Democrats have been virtually unanimous in supporting Pelosi’s top-down impeachment strategy since the process launched in September. And their expected approval sets the stage for a floor vote as soon Tuesday, launching the Senate trial as early as Wednesday. 

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Still, no vote has been scheduled — and likely won’t be until after Tuesday’s meeting. 

What will rules shaping the trial will look like?

Pelosi’s decision to send the articles to the Senate next week came after tussling with McConnell over what the rules shaping the trial will be. 

Pelosi withheld sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate to try to win concessions with McConnell on the trial’s rules, but ultimately signaled Friday she would relent.

McConnell has said that he will follow the standard from President Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, in which the Senate first votes on the resolution laying out the trial and then later on a second resolution on calling in witnesses — something the GOP leader has made clear he does not want to do. 

Pelosi has said she wants to see the resolution shaping the rules for the Senate trial before finalizing her team, with sources saying this will likely factor into her decision to pick members with more prosecutorial experience, or those with more constitutional and appellate experience.

Senate rules require lawmakers in the upper chamber to participate in presidential impeachment trials, meaning they won’t be able to skip the trial for the trail, particularly in Iowa where voters will be caucusing in just weeks.

The 1999 impeachment trial resolution gave the House managers a maximum of 24 hours to make their case. The president and his defense team were then granted the same window to respond to the charges. Afterward, senators were permitted to question the parties “for a period of time not to exceed 16 hours.”

After that initial phase, each side under the 1999 rules was allowed “to make a motion to subpoena witnesses and/or to present any evidence not in the record,” which was then subject to a full Senate vote.

During the Clinton trial, the Senate voted on a second resolution along party lines to subpoena three witnesses for closed-door depositions, all of whom had previously testified in the initial investigation.

How did the delay affect the process politically?

The political ramifications of the Speaker’s decision to delay is still playing out, and it is unclear how her gamble will impact the process.

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During the delay, Pelosi gained some new ammunition.

Former national security adviser John BoltonJohn Bolton Trump ignores science at our peril Bolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office US retaliates with missile strikes in Iraq MORE’s surprise announcement on Monday that he would be willing to testify if the GOP-controlled Senate subpoenaed his testimony triggered a tidal wave of Democrats calling on Republicans not to turn a blind eye to a first-hand witness. 

Perhaps more significantly, his statement prompted several Republicans to voice support about hearing from Bolton, and perhaps other witnesses.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Senate eyes quick exit after vote on coronavirus stimulus package MORE (R-Maine), a moderate with an independent streak, revealed Friday in an interview with the the Bangor Daily News that she is working with a “fairly small” group of Republican senators to ensure that an initial resolution on the impeachment trial rules allows for witnesses.

“I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement on how to proceed with the trial that will allow the opportunity for both the House and the president’s counsel if they choose to do so,” Collins said, adding that her colleagues in the upper chamber should be “completely open to calling witnesses.”

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt Romney7 things to know about the coronavirus stimulus package Scarborough rips Trump for mocking Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'Could have been a death sentence' Trump on Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'I am so happy I can barely speak' MORE (R-Utah), who has emerged as one of the president’s outspoken GOP critics, said last week that he wants to “be able to hear from John Bolton,” though he did not take a stance on what process should be taken to make that happen.

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Democrats need only four GOP defectors to secure the appearance of new witnesses.

But there is another wild card in play. 

Trump on Friday threatened to exert executive privilege over Bolton’s testimony if he was ultimately compelled to testify, citing the need to protect future presidents. 

“I think you have to for the sake of the office,” he told Fox News’s Laura IngrahamLaura Anne IngrahamTrump team fiercely debates how long coronavirus restrictions should stay in place Laura Ingraham on testing anti-malaria drug for coronavirus: 'I'll happily volunteer' Warren makes surprise appearance on 'Saturday Night Live' after dropping out of 2020 race MORE.

Which lawmakers will manage the process? 

House Democrats are eagerly waiting to hear who will land the high-profile roles as impeachment managers — the members appointed by Pelosi to act as prosecutors in the case to remove Trump before the Senate.

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Pelosi has kept the matter close to her chest, keeping very few individuals in the loop.

Sources say she wants to see the resolution shaping the rules for the Senate trial before finalizing her team. The rules could factor into her decision to pick members with more prosecutorial experience, or those with more constitutional and appellate experience.

Some lawmakers are almost certain to be managers.

Nadler and Intelligence Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffCoronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner Texas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill Schiff: Remote voting would not compromise national security MORE (D-Calif.) are widely expected to be tapped, as both led the charge during the House impeachment inquiry. Democrats have also speculated that staff on both panels will be involved in the process of picking managers. 

Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesPelosi says House will review Senate coronavirus stimulus package Pelosi says House will draft its own coronavirus funding bill Senate closes in on trillion-dollar coronavirus stimulus bill MORE (N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Caucus who is himself thought to be in consideration, described Nadler and Schiff as “logical choices … to lead the effort.” Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben Raskin20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order Senators urge Congress to include election funds in coronavirus stimulus Vote at home saves our democracy and saves lives MORE (D-Md.), a former constitutional law professor, is viewed as a likely contender as well.

Pelosi has yet to specify how many managers she’ll name, let alone their identities. And the prestige surrounding the position has triggered a clamor of interest from lawmakers on and off the key panels.

“The whole place wants to be a manager,” said Rep. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyHouse Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Brady PAC endorses Biden, plans to spend million in 2020 Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter dismantle Russian interference campaign targeting African Americans | YouTube to allow ads on coronavirus videos | Trump signs law banning federal funds for Huawei equipment MORE (D-N.Y.), who heads the Oversight Committee. 

Across the aisle, Republicans are lobbying with equal intensity to be a part of Trump’s defense team, with some of his top House allies — including Reps. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsGeorgia makes it easier to get mail-in ballots after delaying primary Overnight Energy: House stimulus aims to stem airline pollution | Environmental measures become sticking point in Senate talks | Progressives propose T 'green stimulus' House bill would ban stock trading by members of Congress MORE (Ga.), Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTrump, privacy hawks upend surveillance brawl Top GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition McConnell, top GOP senators throw support behind surveillance deal as deadline looms MORE (Ohio), John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeGOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Acting director of National Counterterrorism Center fired: report Acting director of national intelligence begins hiring freeze: reports MORE (Texas) and Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonLawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers Roberts wrestles with abortion law in high-stakes Louisiana case White House, Republicans blast Pelosi for ripping up copy of Trump speech MORE (La.) — said to be likely candidates.

How will this impact senators running for president?

A handful of Democratic senators running for president will face a real crisis during the impeachment trial.

Senate rules require the lawmakers to participate in presidential impeachment trials, meaning they won’t be able to skip the trail to go to Iowa, where voters will be caucusing in just weeks.

The Senate trial is expected to move at a grueling place once it launches, with the chamber in session six days a week, minus Sundays, starting at 1 p.m.

There are five senators currently running for the Democratic presidential nomination — Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Poll: Trump, Biden in dead heat in 2020 matchup Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on MORE (I-Vt.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging MORE (D-Minn.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerLawmakers, labor leaders ramp up calls to use Defense Production Act Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men Amazon doubling overtime pay for warehouse workers MORE (D-N.J.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHillicon Valley: Facebook launches portal for coronavirus information | EU sees spike in Russian misinformation on outbreak | Senate Dem bill would encourage mail-in voting | Lawmakers question safety of Google virus website We need a massive economic response to counter the threat of the coronavirus Senator calls for cybersecurity review at health agencies after hacking incident MORE (D-Colo.). Their campaigning will be squeezed once the impeachment trial begins.

It remains to be seen how much precious campaign time will be lost ahead of the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, as McConnell has yet to announce the length of the trial. Historically, one of the top three candidates in Iowa usually make it onto the presidential ballot, hence the saying “three tickets out of Iowa.” 

Pelosi’s decision to delay the trial until Wednesday, at the earliest, lends the Senate candidates at least one bit of freedom, allowing them to participate in the next primary debate on Tuesday night.