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GOP senators say trial could wrap as soon as Saturday

GOP senators say trial could wrap as soon as Saturday
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans say former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: McConnell 'helpless' to stop Biden from packing court Romney on NRSC awarding Trump: Not 'my preference' McConnell sidesteps Trump calling him 'dumb son of a b----' MORE's impeachment trial could conclude as soon as Saturday.  

The timeline, which they stressed wasn't locked in, would mean the trial lasted five days, significantly shorter than any other presidential impeachment trial. Trump's first trial currently holds the record for being the shortest at 21 days.  

"Saturday is looking better all the time I would think for a final vote," Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate GOP opens door to earmarks Thune: 'There are Republicans who would vote' for smaller infrastructure package Republicans can't handle the truth about taxes MORE (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, told reporters. 

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Sen. John CornynJohn CornynOn The Money: Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan | Democrats debate tax hikes on wealthy | Biden, Congress target semiconductor shortage Hillicon Valley: Biden nominates former NSA deputy director to serve as cyber czar | Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after all | Biden pressed on semiconductor production amid shortage Lawmakers, industry call on Biden to fund semiconductor production amid shortage MORE (R-Texas) told reporters that senators are hoping "the thing concludes by Saturday." 

"It seems like the time is compressing," Cornyn said. 

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoBiden-GOP infrastructure talks off to rocky start Moderate GOP senators and Biden clash at start of infrastructure debate America's infrastructure: You get what you pay for MORE (R-W.Va.) appeared skeptical of the lightning quick timeline but acknowledged that she had gotten guidance the trial could wrap on Saturday. 

"The last I heard was Saturday, but I'm not sure that's going to be possible. I think it may be more like Sunday," Capito said. 

The trial was initially expected to last into early next week. The first version of the rules governing the proceeding paused the trial between Friday at 5 p.m. and Sunday afternoon, at the request of Trump's legal team in order to observe the Jewish Sabbath.

That made Senate aides think a final vote wasn't likely to take place until Tuesday, Feb. 16, at the earliest. The Senate was previously scheduled to leave for a one-week recess that would start on Monday, Feb. 15. 

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But Trump's team withdrew the request, citing concerns about slowing down the trial. And the Senate agreed to work through the weekend — on both Saturday and Sunday — underscoring their desire to get the trial behind them. Typically impeachment trials meet for six days a week, but don't convene on Sunday.  

Speeding things up further, Trump's legal team is supposed to wrap up its arguments on Friday. Under the trial rules they have 16 hours, which they can use on both Friday and Saturday.  

"We will finish up our presentation tomorrow/Friday," Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, announced in a tweet. 

The House impeachment managers are using both of their days, but are expected to yield back some time. They started their opening arguments on Tuesday and continued on Wednesday, when the trial is expected to wrap around 6 p.m.  

After opening arguments, senators still have up to four hours to ask questions. That's significantly shorter than the two days used in Trump's first trial. 

Aides also expect that the trial could go straight from the question-and-answer period to up to two hours of debate over whether or not to call witnesses.  

Neither Trump's legal team nor the House managers have completely closed the door on calling witnesses, but senators have signaled they don't think it's necessary. Calling witnesses, something Democrats unsuccessfully tried to do during Trump's first trial, would drag the proceeding out for days if not weeks. 

After that the only steps left before a final vote is for both sides to make closing arguments, something they have four hours to do, and the potential for senators to take time to deliberate.  

During Trump's first trial, senators gave themselves days to give Senate floor speeches before the final vote on convicting or acquiring Trump. Senators have not locked themselves into a similar time frame for the current trial, but the rules resolution leaves the door open for deliberation.  

"I think both Republicans and Democrats would like to have this completed by Saturday," said Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsCongress looks to rein in Biden's war powers Columbine and the era of the mass shooter, two decades on GOP senator tweets statue of himself holding gun to Biden: 'Come and take it' MORE (R-S.D.).  

"I think the House and the defense may very well recognize if they can read the Senate .... I think it would behoove them all to be brief and direct," he added.