McConnell proposes compressed schedule for impeachment trial
House impeachment managers will have 24 hours over two days to make their opening arguments when they begin to present their case against President Trump to the Senate Wednesday, according to a resolution circulated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
President Trump’s team similarly will have two days to present their arguments and then senators will have a chance to ask questions and consider subpoenas of witnesses.
The resolution, as expected, does not require additional witnesses to be subpoenaed and does not allow House prosecutors to admit evidence into the Senate trial record until after the opening arguments are heard.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) quickly pushed back and vowed to force votes on amendments.
“Sen. McConnell’s resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace,” Schumer said in a statement Monday afternoon.
Both sides will have 24 hours to make their first round of arguments — the same amount of time House impeachment managers and Bill Clinton’s lawyers received in 1999, but on a more compressed time schedule than required more than 20 years ago.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who worked with McConnell and Collins to modify the resolution, said it “guarantees a vote on whether we need additional evidence at the appropriate time.”
A Senate GOP leadership aide noted that prosecutors in the Clinton trial didn’t use all of their allotted time and finished their opening arguments within three days.
Schumer argues that forcing House managers to cram their opening arguments into a two-day window will force them to present on the Senate floor well into the evening and possibly past midnight.
The House managers will be allowed to begin their arguments 1 p.m. Wednesday.
“McConnell’s resolution stipulates that key facts be delivered in the wee hours of the night simply because he doesn’t want the American people to hear them,” Schumer said.
The Senate GOP leadership aide said in 1999 the House prosecutors and the president’s defense team each used fewer than 12 hours over a three-day period.
“This resolution provides the same time but more structure for the arguments,” the aide said.
The resolution also provides 16 hours for senators to ask questions.
In another departure from the 1999 organizing resolution, McConnell’s measure does not allow evidence from the House impeachment inquiry to be entered into the Senate trial record until after the question of additional witnesses and documents receives consideration.
The GOP aide explained McConnell did this in response to Trump’s lawyers not having the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses at the House hearings.
“The White House was denied due process throughout the 12 weeks of partisan House proceedings,” the source said.
If the Senate votes at the end of phase one against subpoenaing witnesses, then it will not be possible to consider additional motions on specific witnesses, according to McConnell’s resolution.
Democrats want to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, senior White House adviser Robert Blair and senior Office of Management Budget official Michael Duffey.
The Senate will vote on the resolution Tuesday.
Schumer called on moderate Republican colleagues to reconsider McConnell’s aggressive timeline.
“Any senator that votes for the McConnell resolution will be voting to hide information and evidence,” he said in his statement.
“I will be offering amendments to address the many flaws in this deeply unfair proposal and to subpoena the witnesses and documents we have requested,” he added.
Updated at 7:32 p.m.