Senate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial

Senate Republicans are discussing speeding up the pace of President Trump's impeachment trial by using the trial rules to limit the number of days each side has to make opening arguments.


Republicans, according to senators, are discussing giving both Trump's legal team and House managers 24 hours to present their case, similar to the 1999 proceeding. But unlike the Clinton trial, each side would have to use their time within two days. 


"We're going to give both sides a full and fair opportunity to present their case. ... Phase one is going to be the opening arguments from the House managers and from the White House. Each will have 24 hours spread out over two days to present the arguments they want," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said during an interview with Fox News on Friday. 


Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) separately said the House managers would get a "couple of days" to present their initial case. Meanwhile, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told reporters at a brief Senate session on Friday that the idea was under discussion. 


"I'll be interested to see whether or not that gets elongated over a few days, but I think the going in posture is two, 12 hour periods," he said


The discussion among Republicans underscores the growing anxiety in sections of the caucus to quickly acquit Trump after a weeks-long standoff with House Democrats has drawn out the impeachment fight. Some senators, including Graham, have expressed an eagerness to get the trial over before the Feb. 4 State of the Union address. 


If GOP leadership moves forward with the plan, the language would be included in a forthcoming resolution, being drafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), on the trial rules. The resolution is expected to be debated and passed by the Senate on Tuesday.


A Republican leadership aide, asked about the time requirements, noted that the resolution isn't final until it's released. 


The strategy is likely to garner pushback from Democrats. An aide working on the trial said on Friday that they would be "keeping a sharp eye" if there are any differences on "the amount of time or the number of days" in the upcoming trial compared to Clinton. 


The strategy would set up four long days on Capitol Hill as soon as Wednesday unless either House managers or Trump's legal team agrees to yield back time. The impeachment trial isn't expected to start until 1 p.m. each day. 


Republicans have said they are using the 1999 Clinton trial as their model as they draft the rules for Trump's proceeding. But limiting the number of days each side has to present their arguments to two days would be a break with the previous trial, even if the total number of potential hours is still expected to be the same. 


According to the 1999 resolution "the House of Representatives shall make [its] presentation in support of the articles of impeachment for a period of time not to exceed 24 hours. Each side may determine the number of persons to make [its] presentation. The presentation shall be limited to argument from the record. Following the House of Representatives presentation, the President shall make his presentation for a period not to exceed 24 hours."


In 1999, the House managers used three days to make their case, as did Clinton's team. Neither side used the full 24 hours. 


Once the Senate hears opening arguments and senators get to ask questions, they will then need to vote on whether or not to call witnesses - an issue that has emerged as an early flashpoint within the Senate Republican caucus.


The schedule being contemplated by McConnell would also mark a shift from the timetable previously laid out by Republican senators. Several Republicans, including Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), had previously predicted the first phase of the trial, which is made up of opening arguments and questions from senators, would take two weeks.


Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), citing guidance from McConnell, also told reporters on Thursday that he expected the trial to go from about 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. each day. 


"He's pretty clear about the 1-6 thing. He's pretty clear about the rules. ... He's been pretty clear that for those of you who like to jettison out of here as early as you can on Thursday, you'll be here through Saturday," Cramer said. 


The Clinton impeachment trial took five weeks. But Republican senators have been open about the fact that they do not expect Trump's proceeding to take as long. 


"I don't know if Mitch has said this ... one times or a thousand times, but our goal really ought to be, and I think he's right, our goal ought to be to get through this as quickly as possible," Cramer added.