Three ways the end of the impeachment trial could play out

Friday will be a make-or-break moment in President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump on Kanye West's presidential run: 'He is always going to be for us' Marie Yovanovitch on Vindman retirement: He 'deserved better than this. Our country deserved better than this' Trump says Biden has been 'brainwashed': 'He's been taken over by the radical left' 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

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. 

ADVERTISEMENT
In a stark turnaround from just days ago when Republicans were caught flat footed by allegations from former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump envoy says US ready to talk to North Korea but rebukes Pyongyang counterpart Why Trump can't make up his mind on China The benefits of American disinterest in world affairs 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 GrahamLincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump backs another T stimulus, urges governors to reopen schools Democrats awash with cash in battle for Senate 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 hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Court upholds protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump nominates controversial, longtime acting head of BLM as director | Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee | Massive dust storm from Africa hits Texas, Louisiana MORE (R-Wyo.) added that he expects a vote on “final judgment” to happen by Friday night.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse chairman asks CDC director to testify on reopening schools during pandemic Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Pelosi says House won't cave to Senate on worker COVID-19 protections MORE (R-Ky.) can afford to only lose two Republican senators to defeat the push for witnesses outright. Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump backs another T stimulus, urges governors to reopen schools MORE (R-Utah) is viewed as likely to vote to allow witnesses, while Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRepublicans considering an outdoor stadium for Florida convention: report Sixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad 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 AlexanderRepublicans considering an outdoor stadium for Florida convention: report Sixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Randi Weingarten MORE (R-Tenn.) announced that he would oppose calling new witnesses. Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump backs another T stimulus, urges governors to reopen schools 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 ThuneSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Clash looms over next coronavirus relief 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 MurphyConnecticut senators call for Subway to ban open carry of firearms Democrats optimistic about chances of winning Senate Gridlock mires chances of police reform deal 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 PaulKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads How conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide Gianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle 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 SchumerA renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Trump may be DACA participants' best hope, but will Democrats play ball? MORE (D-N.Y.) declined to tip his hand but noted that “the minority has rights, and we will exercise those rights.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

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 KavanaughOVERNIGHT ENERGY: WH pushed for 'correction' to Weather Service tweet contradicting Trump in 'Sharpiegate' incident, watchdog says | Supreme Court rules that large swath of Oklahoma belongs to Native American tribe Five takeaways from Supreme Court's rulings on Trump tax returns In rueful praise of Elena Kagan: The 'Little Sisters' ruling 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 BraunClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention Gridlock mires chances of police reform deal 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) MoranSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' probe report Senate Democrats push federal agencies to combat coronavirus scams and robocalls 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 BidenTrump says Biden has been 'brainwashed': 'He's been taken over by the radical left' Trump says he'll wear mask during upcoming trip to Walter Reed Latino group 'Mi Familia Vota' launches M voter turnout campaign targeting swing states 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 SchiffSupreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress Schiff to Vindman: 'Right does not matter to Trump. But it matters to you' Democrats hit Trump for handling of Russian bounty allegations after White House briefing 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.”