Senators are pushing for a speedy impeachment trial as the proceedings appear poised to spill into 2020.
With House Democrats aiming to vote on articles of impeachment by Christmas, Republicans view a trial as all but guaranteed but are warning they don’t want to drag it out.
How long a trial could last is a rolling point of debate. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrAnti-Trump Republicans on the line in 2022 too The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks GOP senators say Biden COVID-19 strategy has 'exacerbated vaccine hesitancy' MORE (R-N.C.) raised eyebrows by suggesting it could last six to eight weeks, longer than the proceedings against former President Clinton, which lasted just over a month.
Burr argued the case against Clinton was “cookie-cutter” compared to the current investigation.
“Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBudget impasses mark a critical turning point in Biden's presidency Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results Virginia governor's race enters new phase as early voting begins MORE admitted that he lied to the FBI,” Burr said. “His took five weeks and it didn’t meet the threshold of removal from office. I figured since the president hadn’t admitted to a crime, nor has the House process proven a crime, that it would probably take them some more time.”
But GOP senators — who view it as all but guaranteed that President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE will not be convicted — balked at a long timeline, questioning why they would want to eat up extra weeks on a trial that seems prebaked.
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), asked about Burr’s prediction, said, “I don’t know who he was kidding, but no, it’s not going to take that long.”
“It doesn’t sound like there’s going to be much they’re going to give us, so I think a week is more than enough time to get all that adjudicated, get it out there and exposed, and be done with this,” Perdue added.
Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal Austin, Milley to testify on Afghanistan withdrawal The Pentagon budget is already out of control: Some in Congress want to make it worse MORE (R-Okla.), who was in office for the Clinton trial, characterized himself as “in shock” over the idea of taking six to eight weeks for the Senate’s impeachment proceedings.
“I’m not sure why it should,” he said.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamNorth Dakota Republican latest House breakthrough COVID-19 case Texas House Republican tests positive for coronavirus in latest breakthrough case Graham told Trump he 'f'd up' the presidency: book MORE (R-S.C.), who was a House manager in 1999, also questioned why a trial would need to take up to two months.
“It’s not a complicated fact pattern. I doubt if a trial would last that long,” he said.
Talk about a potential Senate trial comes as the House is holding its first public hearings as part of their impeachment inquiry after weeks of closed-door depositions. House lawmakers are examining if Trump held up Ukraine aid in an effort to pressure the country to open up an investigation into former Vice President BidenJoe BidenPelosi sets Thursday vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill Pressure grows to cut diplomatic red tape for Afghans left behind President Biden is making the world a more dangerous place MORE and his son Hunter Biden.
One option that has been discussed by some GOP senators, as well as conservative pundits, would be to try to dismiss the articles of impeachment, effectively ending a trial before it could get underway. Democrats tried to dismiss the articles against Clinton, but the vote, which requires a simple majority, fell short.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHow the Democratic Party's campaign strategy is failing America GOP should grab the chance to upend Pelosi's plan on reconciliation We don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis MORE (R-Ky.) dismissed the idea during a weekly leadership press conference on Wednesday, telling reporters that there will be a trial if the House sends over articles of impeachment.
“The rules of impeachment are very clear, we’ll have to have a trial. My own view is that we should give people an opportunity to put the case on. ... On the issue of how long it goes on, it’s really kind of up to the Senate,” he said.
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynAbbott bows to Trump pressure on Texas election audit Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook Democrats up ante in risky debt ceiling fight MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to McConnell, also told reporters that he didn’t think the votes were there to dismiss impeachment articles.
Meanwhile, Perdue added that Trump should “get his day in court.”
“I’m one that says, no, put it out there and let’s show everybody just how weak this is, how ridiculous this is,” he said.
Democrats had initially aimed to vote on articles of impeachment by Thanksgiving. Under that time frame, McConnell had told GOP senators that a trial could wrap by the end of the year.
But that time frame has slipped amid weeks of closed-door depositions. House Democrats are now aiming to hold a floor vote by Christmas.
The Senate is scheduled to wrap up its work for the year on Dec. 13. Senators are hoping leadership would be able to come up with a deal to avoid working through the holidays.
Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRoy Blunt has helped forge and fortify the shared bonds between Australia and America The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B MORE (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, said a Christmas vote in the House could “encourage us [in the Senate] to come to some quick agreement on both a time frame and some rules that accommodates Christmas at least, and maybe that whole week.”
The Clinton impeachment trial lasted five weeks, starting on Jan. 7, 1999, and wrapping on Feb. 13, 1999. The Senate passed a resolution at the start of the trial that laid out the procedure for filing motions, how long senators would get to ask questions and how witnesses would be called.
McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerAnti-Trump Republicans on the line in 2022 too Democrats urge Biden to go all in with agenda in limbo Democrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol MORE (D-N.Y.) have not yet started similar negotiations, but both have publicly signaled they want to make a deal.
Cornyn predicted that the upcoming Trump trial wouldn’t be longer than Clinton’s.
“I think the Clinton impeachment trial was about five weeks and, you know, I don’t know right now anything that would make this longer than that,” he said.
Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerOn The Money — Democrats rush to finish off infrastructure GOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff The Memo: Biden beats Trump again — this time in the Senate MORE (R-N.D.) added that his constituents back in North Dakota didn’t want to see a long trial.
“I was of the opinion for a long time that a longer trial over here would at least allow all of the facts to be aired. Back home people don’t want it to last 10 minutes. They’ve checked out. They’re uninterested. ... I don’t think six to eight weeks would be necessary,” he said.
A six- to eight-week trial could be problematic for Democrats, given several senators are running for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination.
If a trial started the week after Christmas, that would mean it would last past the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, and potentially into the New Hampshire primary, scheduled for Feb. 11. Two other early states, Nevada and South Carolina, are set to vote on Feb. 22 and Feb. 29, respectively. That could give Republicans leverage as they try to negotiate a deal on the rules for the trial.
“It will probably happen before Christmas and then occupy January and February,” Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunBipartisan push for vocational training focuses on funding, curricula The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in MORE (R-Ind.) said. “I think it’s going to cause a lot of squirming with them.”
Blunt added that “we would all hope that it would go quicker” than the Clinton trial, but that 2020 Democratic presidential candidates should be prepared to be in Washington.
“I think if you’re the Democrats who are running for president, you should be expecting that you might be expected to be in your seats six to eight weeks if we don’t have a better agreement than that,” he said.
Cornyn joked that “Joe Biden and Mayor Pete would love that,” but predicted there would be a “bipartisan interest in getting this done and doing our job ... but not necessarily letting it preempt anything else we want to do.”