Schumer, McConnell finalizing deal on Trump impeachment trial
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are nearing a deal on the framework for former President Trump’s second impeachment trial.
Under the deal, which hasn’t yet been finalized, the trial could wrap up in roughly a week if no witnesses are called.
“We are finalizing a resolution that’s been agreed to by all parties … that will ensure a fair, honest, bipartisan Senate impeachment trial,” Schumer said at a press conference in New York, adding that additional details would be released Monday.
The Senate would start the trial Tuesday with up to four hours of debate and a vote over its constitutionality, according to a person familiar with the talks. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) forced a similar vote late last month, which failed but underscored that there aren’t the votes to convict Trump. Republicans have been pledging to revive the issue during the trial.
Opening arguments wouldn’t start until Wednesday at noon, with both the House impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team getting 16 hours to present their case.
In order to comply with a request from one of Trump’s attorneys the trial would not be conducted on Saturday, but would reconvene on Sunday afternoon. Typically impeachment trials run every day of the week besides Sunday but one of Trump’s attorneys, David Schoen, asked Senate leadership to agree to pause the trial from 5:24 p.m. on Friday until Sunday in order to observe the Jewish Sabbath.
The Senate could also hold a debate and vote on whether or not to formally call witnesses after both sides present their case if House impeachment managers request it. Senators are also expected to get time to ask questions. In previous trials, the question-and-answer session has lasted two days.
“If the managers decide they want witnesses there will be a vote on that. That’s what they requested. They weren’t sure they wanted witnesses. They wanted to preserve the option,” Schumer said.
The time for both sides to present their case is truncated from the 24 hours given during both Trump’s first trial and the Clinton impeachment trial. The impeachment managers and Trump’s lawyers were given three days to present their case last year.
The burgeoning agreement comes as senators have signaled that they want a speedy trial that could be wrapped up in roughly a week. The Senate had been scheduled to leave town Friday for a one-week recess, but senators expect to have to yield back at least some of the break.
Though Republicans blamed Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack, Democrats are not expected to be able to get the 17 votes needed to find him guilty of the one article of impeachment. The House article accuses Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors for “willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States.”
Though several GOP senators, including McConnell, haven’t said how they will vote, senators cap the number of GOP senators who could potentially vote to convict Trump at five. That’s the same number that voted with Democrats last month against the effort by Paul to declare the trial unconstitutional.
The trial is the first for a president already out of office. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is expected to preside over the trial instead of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Republicans have seized on an argument that the Senate cannot hold a trial for a president already out of office, even as legal scholars across the political spectrum have dismissed it.
“Is it constitutional? Does the Constitution anticipate a Senate trial of a president who has left office? And I think the overwhelming weight of history and also precedent indicates that it … is not proper,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), an adviser to McConnell, told ABC’s “This Week.”