Senators signal impeachment trial could spill over into next week
Senators and Trump administration officials are signaling the impeachment trial could spill over into next week.
The timeline is largely dependent on two things: how long senators want to deliberate and the level of cooperation between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) — which has been in short supply during the trial so far.
“It’s a possibility that this could extend on another day or so,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) when asked about the possibility of the trial continuing into next week.
The trial was already expected to go until early Saturday morning. Because of the impeachment trial rules, if the proceedings go past Saturday it would automatically roll over into Monday, the same day as the Iowa caucuses.
Rounds, when asked what could slow down the proceedings, said there were some “time constraints,” including how many members want to take 15 minutes to make a statement on the Senate floor.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters he would be “surprised” if the trial wrapped up on Friday and that without cooperation it could drag on for days.
It could “carry us over to the first part of next week,” Cornyn said.
Democrats began to echo that expectation after a closed-door caucus lunch.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) noted that the schedule was a “work in progress,” but hinted they’ll be continuing the trial next week.
“Yes, it’s possible,” he said. “I think that is kind of the default right now.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, told reporters after a closed-door caucus lunch that the timing of the end of the trial wasn’t locked down.
McConnell, according to Blunt, is expected to offer a resolution that lays out the process for wrapping up that proceeding. The original rules provide few guidelines about how the chamber gets from the witness vote to final votes.
He stressed that he had “no best guesses” about if the trial ends by Saturday or gets delayed. He noted that it was “certainly a possibility” that Republicans will hold a caucus meeting after a witness vote later Friday to determine what schedule 51 senators would support.
“I think that’s what we have to decide,” he said, asked about the potential the trial would go into next week. “Whether you can get everything done you need to get done and have a sense that you had plenty of time.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told reporters during a break that McConnell is expected to offer a resolution that would lay out the path for closing arguments, speeches from senators and the final votes.
A resolution offered by McConnell to set up how the trial ends would be debatable. That means, similar to the rules resolution, Democrats could force hours upon hours of votes. Republicans could table any proposals with a simple majority.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he had no deal with McConnell on how to end the trial. But he indicated the proceedings might drag out as senators looked to explain their votes.
“We do not want this rushed through. We do not want it in the dark of night. Members have an obligation to tell the American people … why they are voting. So we are going to use whatever power we have to prevent it from being rushed through,” Schumer said.
A GOP aide stressed that the trial schedule was “in flux.”
A spokesman for McConnell said there was no guidance on the schedule beyond Friday’s witness vote.
A senior administration official told The Hill that it appeared the Senate would move toward voting on a procedural resolution laying out the rules for the trial’s conclusion after the witness vote, rather than an immediate up-or-down vote on whether to convict or acquit.
That could mean a verdict is not reached until next week. The official indicated that the situation is fluid and could change as Friday’s proceedings continue.
Republicans have been prepared to continue the trial into Friday night or early Saturday morning.
Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters Thursday that there were several senators on both sides of the aisle who either wanted to be able to discuss their votes in closed session or potentially publicly on the floor.
Delaying the trial would have serious ramifications for Democratic presidential candidates, who have been planning to swing through Iowa ahead of the state’s caucuses on Monday.
Tuesday, meanwhile, is when Trump is scheduled to give his State of the Union address to Congress.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), one of four senators seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, brought up the speculation that the trial could go into next week, saying, “I just say bring it on.”
“My view is that the people of Iowa and beyond will understand,” she said.
Even amid the chatter about a delayed end to the trial, some GOP senators signaled they want to get it over with.
“I don’t know, but it couldn’t come sooner for me,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told reporters who asked when he thought it would end.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) said extending the trial would be a “mistake.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said he was “disappointed” in talk of delaying the trial until Wednesday, which he said he had heard from his staff.
Updated at 4:06 p.m.