Three ways the end of the impeachment trial could play out

Friday will be a make-or-break moment in President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE’s impeachment trial as Republicans try to bring the proceedings to a close. 

Senators will hold a crucial vote on whether to call new witnesses or compel documents as part of the Senate’s proceeding. 

Though Trump is all but guaranteed to be acquitted at the end of the trial, Friday’s vote is a turning point that will determine what comes next, including how long it will last. 


The Senate is expected to convene by 1 p.m. on Friday. Senators are warning that if Republicans successfully block witnesses, senators are likely to move quickly to Trump’s acquittal on Friday night or early Saturday.  

Before a vote on witnesses, both Trump’s legal team and House managers get up to two hours each to make their cases to the Senate, according to a resolution passed last week on the rules for the trial. 

What happens after that? There are a few scenarios to watch for.  

Scenario One: The Senate rejects calling witnesses and moves to acquit Trump

This appears to be the most likely outcome, as the pool of potential Republican votes is quickly shrinking. 

In a stark turnaround from just days ago when Republicans were caught flat footed by allegations from former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonPresident Trump: To know him is to 'No' him Obama highlights Biden's tweet from a year ago warning Trump wasn't ready for pandemic Trump's former Homeland Security adviser on COVID-19: 'We could have saved more lives with a different, faster approach' MORE, GOP senators are voicing renewed confidence that they will be able to defeat the request for witnesses. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg Murkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade Biden seeks to close any path for Trump win in race's final days MORE (R-S.C.) stopped short of declaring victory but told reporters, “I’ve never been more optimistic that we’re in a good spot.”

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference GOP senators call on Trump to oppose nationalizing 5G MORE (R-Wyo.) added that he expects a vote on “final judgment” to happen by Friday night.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote Democrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg MORE (R-Ky.) can afford to only lose two Republican senators to defeat the push for witnesses outright. Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Memo: Five reasons why Trump could upset the odds Will anyone from the left realize why Trump won — again? Ratings drop to 55M for final Trump-Biden debate MORE (R-Utah) is viewed as likely to vote to allow witnesses, while Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Barrett sworn in as Supreme Court justice by Thomas Roberts to administer judicial oath to Barrett Tuesday MORE (R-Maine) became the first Republican to formally say she would vote to allow witnesses.

"I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity. Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed," Collins said in a statement. 
In a blow to Democrats, Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenate Health Committee chair asks Cuomo, Newsom to 'stop second guessing' FDA on vaccine efficacy The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base McConnell aims for unity amid growing divisions with Trump MORE (R-Tenn.) announced that he would oppose calling new witnesses. Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHarris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg Murkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade MORE (R-Alaska), well known for her independent streak, has not said how she will vote. 

If Republicans block new witnesses, GOP senators expect McConnell to try to take control of the floor and make a motion to go to the votes on the two articles of impeachment.

In a potential procedural snag, McConnell’s request will be amendable on the floor, meaning Democrats could force vote after vote to try to slow down or delay Trump’s acquittal. 
"I suspect the Democrats if they want to can engage in any number of dilatory tactics to drag it out. ... I suspect they'll want to offer amendments," Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePence won't preside over Barrett's final confirmation vote Gaffes put spotlight on Meadows at tough time for Trump White House getting pushback on possible government-owned 5G network MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said of Friday's schedule. 
Democratic senators are reviewing their procedural options for forcing GOP senators to take a round of politically tough votes. Even after it became clear that Republicans had the votes to pass the rules resolution last week, Democrats forced an hours-long fight over amendments. 

“We’re looking at all of our parliamentary options to try to force as many votes as we can to put Republicans on the record,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Democrats brace for nail-biting finish to Senate battle Senate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination MORE (D-Conn.). 

Murphy also appeared frustrated by talk among Republicans about wrapping the trial on Friday.

“What’s the point of any of this?” he said, questioning if GOP senators had already decided to skip witnesses and closed-door deliberations.

How long Democrats will be able to slow-walk the end of the trial is unclear. Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul suggests restaurants should hire COVID-19 survivors as servers during pandemic Two Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test MORE (R-Ky.) predicted that the Senate would be voting for 12 hours on Friday, indicating that senators are preparing for a long day. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerGraham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  MORE (D-N.Y.) declined to tip his hand but noted that “the minority has rights, and we will exercise those rights.” 


But Republicans say they are prepared to grind it out and stay in session until Trump is acquitted. 

A GOP aide joked that McConnell would face a “revolt” if the leader agreed to delay the final votes, underscoring how eager some Republicans are to get the trial, and the around-the-clock work schedule, behind them. 

“As we did with the organizing resolution, we’ll be prepared to stay through here completion,” Barrasso said. 

Scenario Two: The Senate deadlocks in a 50-50 tie

One option that has sparked days of speculation around the Capitol is that the Senate’s vote could result in a 50-50 tie on the issue of calling witnesses. 

Normally when the Senate deadlocks, Vice President Pence is taxied to the chamber so he can cast a deciding vote. But Pence does not have a role in the Senate’s trial, as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is the presiding officer. 

If Roberts casts a tie-breaking vote, he would put himself in the middle of a fierce political fight.

With Collins to vote to allow witnesses, Democrats would need to win over two more GOP "yes" votes to force the deadlock. 

Romney has not yet announced how he will vote but has indicated that he wants to hear from Bolton. Murkowski, the only GOP senator to oppose Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughBarrett sworn in as Supreme Court justice by Thomas GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg Clarence Thomas set to swear in Barrett at White House MORE's Supreme Court nomination, is also being closely watched by both parties. 

If three Republican senators vote to allow witnesses, that would result in a 50-50 tie, assuming every Democrat votes.

Republicans are predicting that Roberts will not break a tie, which would cause the motion to fail. But few are completely sure.

“If it’s a tie, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what happens with the presiding officer, especially being the chief justice,” said Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunSenators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Trump is out of touch with Republican voters on climate change GOP to Trump: Focus on policy MORE (R-Ind.).
Scenario Three: The Senate votes to call witnesses
Democrats must win over four GOP senators to win the witness vote, or three senators with the backing of Roberts, which would lengthen the trial.

With Alexander and Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranLobbying world This World Suicide Prevention Day, let's recommit to protecting the lives of our veterans Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes MORE (R-Kan.) both saying they will oppose witnesses, this option looks increasingly unlikely. 

To call numerous witnesses, Democrats would need to win over four Republicans on the initial vote to allow the requests for witnesses and documents and would also need to win over four Republicans on each subsequent request for specific individuals.

Trump’s legal team and Senate Republicans have warned that if Bolton is called, the president should be able to call his own witnesses to testify, including former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Trump campaign eyes election night party at his sold-out DC hotel Harris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' MORE and his son Hunter Biden.

Under the rules for the trial passed last week, any witnesses that senators agree to subpoena would first be deposed behind closed doors. The Senate would then decide if the individual needed to testify. But the rules do not put a cap on how long that process can take.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffIn our 'Bizarro World' of 2020 politics, the left takes a wrong turn Greenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (D-Calif.) pitched senators Thursday on the idea that if they agreed to call witnesses, depositions could be limited to one week.

“Can we take one week to hear from these witnesses?” Schiff asked. “I think we can. I think we should. I think we must.”