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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 BluntMcConnell wants deal this week on fiscal 2021 spending figures Graham becomes center of Georgia storm Republicans start turning the page on Trump era 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 CornynCornyn says election outcome 'becoming increasingly clear': report Top GOP senator: Biden should be getting intel briefings GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results MORE (R-Texas), who said late last year that he hoped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAs Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on Harris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year 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 MulvaneyMick Mulvaney 'concerned' by Giuliani role in Trump election case On The Money: Senate releases spending bills, setting up talks for December deal | McConnell pushing for 'highly targeted' COVID deal | CFPB vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency Consumer bureau vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency MORE, former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday Bolton calls on GOP leadership to label Trump's behavior 'inexcusable' 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 RomneyBiden teams to meet with Trump administration agencies Paul Ryan calls for Trump to accept results: 'The election is over' Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism MORE (R-Utah) has specifically said he wants to hear from Bolton and anticipates voting for him to testify.

Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump administration denies permit for controversial Pebble Mine Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right 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 PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation 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 SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (D-Calif.), who spearheaded the impeachment inquiry, leading the team.

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Democrats accuse GSA of undermining national security by not certifying Biden win MORE (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Nominated for another Speaker term, Pelosi says it's her last Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.), Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsDemings on Florida: 'We're excited about what we're seeing' but 'taking absolutely nothing for granted' Why it's time for a majority female Cabinet Sunday shows preview: The final push to Election Day MORE (D-Fla.), Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenHillicon Valley: Four major tech issues facing the Biden administration | Pressure grows to reinstate White House cyber czar | Facebook, Google to extend political ad bans House report says lawmakers could securely cast remote votes amid pandemic Why prevailing wage reform matters for H-1B visas MORE (D-Calif.), Sylvia GarciaSylvia GarciaKatherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Texas social workers drop nondiscrimination rules for LGBTQ, disabilities MORE (D-Texas) and Jason CrowJason CrowGiffords launches national Gun Owners for Safety group to combat the NRA House approves .2T COVID-19 relief bill as White House talks stall Lawmakers grill Pentagon over Trump's Germany drawdown 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 SekulowBiden faces politically thorny decision on Trump prosecutions Trump cannot block grand jury subpoena for his tax returns, court rules Now, we need the election monitors 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 CruzO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol 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.”