Three ways the end of the impeachment trial could play out

Friday will be a make-or-break moment in President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Overnight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal Trump says he'll look into small business loan program restricting casinos 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 BoltonChina sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Trump ignores science at our peril Bolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office 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 GrahamTrump attacks WHO amid criticism of his coronavirus response Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill UN biodiversity chief calls for international ban of 'wet markets' 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 BarrassoOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns Lobbying world 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 to try to pass small business funds Thursday, warns against holding it 'hostage' Overnight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal House Republicans, key administration officials push for additional funding for coronavirus small business loans MORE (R-Ky.) can afford to only lose two Republican senators to defeat the push for witnesses outright. Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Zoom, grocery delivery, self-isolation: How lawmakers are surviving coronavirus Outgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' MORE (R-Utah) is viewed as likely to vote to allow witnesses, while Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Senators push for changes to small business aid President tightens grip on federal watchdogs 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 AlexanderSticking points force stimulus package talks to spill into Sunday GOP drafting stimulus package without deal with Democrats Senate coronavirus stimulus talks spill into Saturday MORE (R-Tenn.) announced that he would oppose calling new witnesses. Sen. 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), 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 ThuneDurbin: Bringing senators back in two weeks would be 'dangerous and risky' Trump's magical thinking won't stop the coronavirus pandemic Lawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill 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 MurphyZoom, grocery delivery, self-isolation: How lawmakers are surviving coronavirus Coronavirus watch: Where the virus is spiking across the country New Jersey governor closing parks, forests 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 PaulZoom, grocery delivery, self-isolation: How lawmakers are surviving coronavirus Rand Paul volunteering at hospital after negative coronavirus test Georgia governor says he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHouse Republicans, key administration officials push for additional funding for coronavirus small business loans Rep. Massie threatens to block next relief bill, calls for remote voting Democratic senators call for funding for local media in coronavirus stimulus 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 KavanaughWisconsin Democrats chair bashes Supreme Court decision on voting: 'I am about to explode' Supreme Court blocks Wisconsin from extending absentee voting deadline A woman accuses Biden of sexual assault — and few liberals listen 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 BraunDemocrats, Trump set to battle over implementing T relief bill Senate GOP looking at ,200 in coronavirus cash payments GOP divided on next steps for massive stimulus package 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) MoranZoom, grocery delivery, self-isolation: How lawmakers are surviving coronavirus Rand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate Sinema criticizes Paul for alleged behavior ahead of coronavirus test results: 'Absolutely irresponsible' 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 BidenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders exits, clearing Biden's path to nomination Former Clinton staffers invited to celebrate Sanders dropping out: report Sanders exit leaves deep disappointment on left 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 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.) 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.”