Senate begins preparations for Trump trial

Senate begins preparations for Trump trial
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate MORE's (D-Calif.) naming of impeachment mangers is triggering machinery in the Senate that will result in an impeachment trial.

Senators and aides say it will take several days for opening arguments to begin because the presiding officer, Chief Justice John Roberts, needs to be summoned, senators need to be sworn in as jurors and President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE’s defense team needs to be notified and given a chance to respond.

A message was delivered to the Senate at 5 p.m. Wednesday announcing that the House has appointed managers to present the articles of impeachment to the Senate.


The Senate then notified the House it would be ready to accept the articles on Thursday. The managers will be escorted to the well of the Senate on Thursday and will be required to read out the articles of impeachment

Supreme Court staff have notified the Senate GOP leadership that Roberts will be available to preside immediately over the trial, which means senators are expected to be sworn in Thursday.

Senators will be appointed to escort Roberts.

The Senate is expected to proceed to the articles at 1 p.m. Thursday and for Roberts to arrive around that time to be sworn in by the President Pro Tempore, Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal Republicans: Supreme Court won't toss ObamaCare Barrett sidesteps Democratic questions amid high-stakes grilling MORE (R-Iowa).

Roberts will then swear in senators to serve as quasi jurors.

Then Trump’s legal team will be notified of the proceeding and given a few days to respond.


President Andrew Johnson was given 10 days to respond to the Senate’s 1868 impeachment trial while President Clinton was given a week of notice ahead of his 1999 trial.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntLow-flying helicopters to measure radiation levels in DC before inauguration Bottom Line GOP vows quick confirmation of Trump's Supreme Court pick amid coronavirus turmoil MORE (R-Mo.) says that Trump has to be given a minimum of two days of notice.

Senate rules require the trial to be held six out of seven days a week — except for Sundays — until it’s concluded, although senators could agree to a motion by unanimous consent or majority vote to take days off.

Senators will have to follow strict rules of decorum during the trial. They have been asked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief LGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Trump to lift Sudan terror sponsor designation MORE (N.Y.) to attend all of the proceedings.

Senators must sit silently at their desks and silently rise when Roberts enters the chamber, waiting for him to take his seat before sitting down themselves, similar to how the attendees of a regular trial would be required to behave.

Lawmakers will not be allowed to speak during the proceedings and must submit questions and motions in writing to Roberts in the chair.

Leaders have also implemented rules to encourage colleagues to pay full attention to the arguments, which could last several hours each day.

Senators will not be allowed to have cellphones or other electronic devices on the floor and must check them in at special cubby holes in the cloak room.

Senators have been instructed to “refrain from speaking to neighboring Senators while the case is being presented.”

After senators take their oath, they will start debating an organizing resolution laying out the rules for “phase one” of the trial.  

McConnell said he has enough votes in the Senate Republican Conference to pass an organizing resolution that sets up time for the House impeachment managers and the president’s lawyers to make their opening arguments and time for senators to submit questions in writing.

The GOP leader said the debate on the organizing resolution will begin on Tuesday, after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Schumer said he will force Republicans to vote on subpoenaing four key witnesses and three sets of documents when the Senate debates the organizing resolution. And Schumer said he will force additional votes on witnesses and documents throughout the trial if he doesn’t succeed with the first attempts.

“Once the trial begins, there will — there will — be a vote about the question of witnesses and documents, and the spotlight will be on Republican senators,” Schumer said last week.

“Those votes at the beginning of the trial will not be the last votes on witnesses and documents. Make no mistake, we will continue to revisit the issue because it’s so important to our constitutional prerogative to hold a fair impeachment trial,” he said.

Senators will be required to stand and vote from their seats, underscoring the solemnity of the occasion.