Seven things to know about the Trump trial

The impeachment battle is shifting to the Senate ahead of a weeks-long trial expected to get underway next week.

With the House voting Wednesday to transmit the articles, Chief Justice John Roberts and senators are expected to be sworn in on Thursday. A fierce rules fight and opening arguments will get started on Tuesday.

Though the outcome of the trial is pre-baked, the high-profile proceeding, the third in the chamber’s history, will put a spotlight on a handful of key potential swing votes, as well as the 2020 contenders.

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Here are seven things to know.

 

McConnell to make it as ‘painful’ as possible

Senators are getting a list of strict rules they have to follow once the trial starts.

According to decorum guidelines circulated Wednesday, senators will not be able to bring electronic devices on the floor, speak to others while on the floor or bring reading material unless it’s related to impeachment.

They are expected to be in their seats as they listen to House managers and Trump’s team make their respective cases. Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenators, bipartisan state officials press Congress for more election funds Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next COVID-19 relief deal Voting rights group pushes steps to protect voters during coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Mo.) said they will not be allowed to use video evidence, something House Democrats wanted.

The Senate will also be in session six days a week, a stark difference from the chamber’s normal Monday evening to Thursday afternoon schedule.

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Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next COVID-19 relief deal Senate blocks dueling coronavirus relief plans Lawmakers announce legislation to fund government purchases of oil MORE (R-Texas), who said late last year that he hoped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Trump advisor Bossert says to test the well, not ill; Senate standoff on next relief bill McCarthy slams Democrats on funding for mail-in balloting Harris, Ocasio-Cortez among Democrats calling for recurring direct payments in fourth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ky.) would agree to let them work only five days a week, told The Hill that he saw no signs the GOP leader was prepared to back down from the more demanding work schedule.

Another GOP senator, asked about the possibility, told reporters recently that he assumed McConnell “will want it to be as painful as it can possibly be” to keep senators focused on getting through the trial.

 

Witnesses are the wildcard

The biggest unknown: Will 51 senators ultimately decide to call witnesses?

Republican senators are expected to pass a rules resolution that would punt the decision until after opening arguments and questions from senators. The resolution, according to GOP senators who have seen it, will require a vote at the end of the first phase on whether to call witnesses.

Democrats want to hear from acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOne year in, Democrats frustrated by fight for Trump tax returns Meadows joins White House in crisis mode Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE, former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonChina sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Trump ignores science at our peril Bolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office MORE, Mulvaney’s senior adviser Robert Blair and Michael Duffey, the associate director of national security at the Office of Management and Budget.

They’ll need four Republican senators to support their request. Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTwo Democrats roll out bill to protect inspectors general from politically motivated firing Senators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Zoom, grocery delivery, self-isolation: How lawmakers are surviving coronavirus MORE (R-Utah) has specifically said he wants to hear from Bolton and anticipates voting for him to testify.

Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTwo Democrats roll out bill to protect inspectors general from politically motivated firing Senators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Senators push for changes to small business aid MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHouse Republicans threaten pushback on Saudi Arabia amid oil market slump Zoom, grocery delivery, self-isolation: How lawmakers are surviving coronavirus Lawmakers announce legislation to fund government purchases of oil MORE (R-Alaska) are also viewed as potential swing votes. They said Wednesday it is too soon to determine which witnesses should testify.

“There will be this time in the process where we will have an opportunity to make a determination as to what further information we need, whether it is for Hunter Biden or Ambassador Bolton,” Murkowski said.

Conservatives are threatening to force tough votes on testimony from Biden and the whistleblower who triggered impeachment if their Republican colleagues vote to subpoena Bolton.

 

Democrats, Trump face off for first time

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi calls for investigation into reports of mistreatment of pregnant women in DHS custody Wisconsin highlights why states need a bipartisan plan that doesn't include Democrats federalizing elections Pelosi defends push for mail-in voting: GOP 'afraid' to let people vote MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday announced the seven Democrats who will be responsible for arguing the lower chamber’s case, with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley: Schiff presses intel chief on staff changes | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Twitter's Jack Dorsey to donate B to coronavirus fight | WhatsApp takes steps to counter virus misinformation Schiff calls on DNI Grenell to explain intelligence community changes READ: Schiff plans to investigate Trump firing intel watchdog MORE (D-Calif.), who spearheaded the impeachment inquiry, leading the team.

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold 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.) and Reps. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesDemocrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus Pelosi says House will review Senate coronavirus stimulus package Pelosi says House will draft its own coronavirus funding bill MORE (D-N.Y.), Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsBiden hosts potential VP pick Gretchen Whitmer on podcast Biden associates reach out to Holder about VP search Biden confirms he's considering Whitmer for VP MORE (D-Fla.), Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenHillicon Valley: Coronavirus tracking sparks surveillance concerns | Target delivery workers plan Tuesday walkout | Federal agency expedites mail-in voting funds to states | YouTube cracks down on 5G conspiracy videos House Republican pushes for bipartisan cooperation on elections during coronavirus crisis Hillicon Valley: FCC chief proposes 0M telehealth program | Twitter takes down posts promoting anti-malaria drugs for coronavirus| Whole Foods workers plan Tuesday strike MORE (D-Calif.), Sylvia GarciaSylvia GarciaTexas House Dems ask governor to issue stay-at-home order The Hill's 12:30 Report: House to vote on .2T stimulus after mad dash to Washington Overnight Energy: Iconic national parks close over coronavirus concerns | New EPA order limits telework post-pandemic | Lawmakers urge help for oil and gas workers MORE (D-Texas) and Jason CrowJason CrowPentagon gets heat over protecting service members from coronavirus Here are the lawmakers who have self-quarantined as a precaution Trump set to confront his impeachment foes MORE (D-Colo.) were also named.

Meanwhile, White House counsel Pat Cipollone will lead Trump’s defense team, with the president’s personal attorney Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowMeadows joins White House in crisis mode What the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber Senate votes to acquit Trump on articles of impeachment MORE acting as his No. 2. Whether Trump will try to add House Republicans to his team remains an open question.

 

Senators get to ask questions

Senators are expected to be able to submit questions through Roberts, who will read them aloud.

The Senate used two days during the 1999 Clinton trial to answer more than 150 questions submitted to then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Senators in 1999 had 16 hours for questions, and lawmakers say they expect the rules for Trump’s trial to give a similar amount of time.

Cornyn and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzLawmakers announce legislation to fund government purchases of oil Overnight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal Oil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves MORE (R-Texas) both said they were unclear what the order would be for how their questions get asked by Roberts. The chief justice is expected to say as he asks the question which senator it originated from, setting up key moments to watch as reporters try to infer what swing votes are thinking.

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Expected to go past State of the Union, Iowa caucuses

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who initially predicted the trial would be over by the State of the Union, told reporters that he now expects the proceeding will stretch beyond the scheduled Feb. 4 address.

The first phase of the trial — initial arguments and questions from senators — is expected to last roughly two weeks. After that, senators will still need to make a decision on hearing from witnesses and, eventually, vote on convicting or acquitting Trump.

The new time frame also has implications for Democratic White House hopefuls, grounding several candidates through the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses.

 

Press crackdown expected

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The Senate sergeant-at-arms and the Senate Rules Committee are preparing new press restrictions in the Capitol, sparking a backlash from reporters who warn it will interfere with their ability to cover the trial.

One restriction would require reporters to remain in press pens outside of the Senate chamber. They would not be able to leave the roped-in area to talk to senators.

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) distanced himself from the proposed restrictions, calling them a “huge mistake” that “sends the wrong message.”

Most of the Senate’s deliberations are expected to be televised, though senators could go into “closed session,” where they would turn off cameras and remove reporters for a private discussion.

 

Trial will end in Trump acquittal

With 67 votes required to convict Trump and remove him from office, the Senate proceeding is all but guaranteed to end in his acquittal.

To convict Trump, Democrats would need 20 Republican senators, as well as their entire caucus. No Republican senator has said they view Trump’s actions as an impeachable offense.

But GOP senators also say they want to formally acquit Trump instead of dismissing the articles, even though the idea has been embraced by Trump. The rules resolution is not expected to include a built-in motion to dismiss, a break from the Clinton rules.

“There is little to no sentiment in [the] Republican conference for a motion to dismiss,” McConnell told reporters this week. “Our members feel that we have an obligation to listen to the arguments.”