Highlights and Lowlights From the Senate Impeachment Trial
A lot can happen on the road to Trump’s acquittal. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Just over three years after his inauguration, President Trump is finally suffering the fate many predicted from day one: impeachment. Below are highlights of Tuesday’s proceedings, which mark the real beginning of his trial after the pomp and circumstance of day one last week. Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of intense partisan fighting over the regulations that govern the whole affair.
According to “two sources in communication with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell” who spoke with CNN, the Kentucky senator wants to wrap up the trial in 10 days, a timeline that would be roughly follow these outlines:
Wednesday: Democratic arguments
Thursday: Democratic arguments
Friday: Democratic arguments
Saturday: Trump team arguments
Monday: Trump team arguments
Jan. 28: Trump team arguments
Jan. 29: Senator questions
Jan 30: Senator questions
Jan 31: On the second Friday of the trial, there would be four hours of debate on whether or not to subpoena witnesses and documents, followed by a vote on those potential subpoenas, and a vote on any other motions. If no votes pass, it’s possible the Senate could vote to acquit that day.
One of the few Republicans expected to break from her caucus on procedural issues, Maine Senator Susan Collins said that she is “likely” to support a Democratic motion to subpoena witnesses later in the trial. “As I said last week, while I need to hear the case argued and the questions answered, I anticipate that I would conclude that having additional information would be helpful,” she said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “It is likely that I would support a motion to subpoena witnesses at that point in the trial just as I did in 1999.”
Considering the screen habits of most Americans, the rule that senators cannot use electronic devices in the chamber is going to be a tough one to adhere to during the grueling hours expected for the trial. As a workaround, at least eight senators so far have worn Apple Watches to be able to contact aides and the outside world. According to Roll Call, so far only one presidential hopeful has been seen with a loophole smartwatch: Michael Bennet.
Senators are opting for low-tech, middle-school solutions to get around the no-communication rule during the trial, including passing notes (Mike Lee), sharing candy (Ben Sasse), whispering to neighbors (Mark Warren and Tim Kaine), and pretending to punch a colleague in the chest (Lisa Murkowski to Lindsey Graham).
In initial remarks, White House lawyers Jay Sekuow and Pat Cipollone argued that the impeachment trial was a waste of America’s time — not bothering to defend President Trump’s actual conduct. Cipollone seemed personally upset, repeatedly pounding the podium in front of him and calling the trial “ridiculous,” and going after Adam Schiff repeatedly for reading an inaccurate version of President Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president into the congressional record — an episode that has become an obsession on the right. Only very close observers of the Trump administration might have noticed that not all of the arguments the two lawyers laid out were consistent with past practice.
The Senate Majority Leader announced that he would expand the number of hours Democrats and Republicans can argue their case, meaning that the trial will not run into the wee hours this week after all. The change was a reaction to pushback from (relatively) moderate Republican senators like Susan Collins, who balked at McConnell’s original, extreme plan.
In another alteration likely spurred on by that same group of senators, McConnell reversed course and said he would allow the House’s impeachment evidence to be entered into Senate evidence.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer assailed Mitch McConnell’s proposal for how the impeachment trial should be conducted, which is designed to acquit President Trump quickly and — with its late-night hours — draw as few eyeballs as possible.