Impeachment Trial Rundown
By Bethany Brubeck
Now that this trial has started, what can we expect? What’s this trial’s timeline? Here’s the basics you should know.
As a reminder: the trial that begins today places two charges on President Trump: (1) abuse of power, and (2) obstruction of justice. The first charge accuses Trump of pressuring the Ukraine to investigate his political opponents by withholding military aid. The second charge accuses Trump of hiding this from Congress by hiding documents and testimony.
The twelve-hour debate yesterday (Jan. 21) marked the official beginning of the trial and consisted of a discussion on the process and rules of the trial itself. Subpoenaing documents from the White House, State Department, and other agencies was voted against during this meeting. Senate Republicans voted 53-47 to approve Mitch McConnell’s trial plan, including some last-minute adjustments, that places a 24-hour limit on each sides’ arguments and also limits the evidence that can be presented during the trial.
Representative Adam B. Schiff of California will lead seven House Managers in presenting different parts of the case. They will have the opportunity to give these speeches uninterrupted; senators and White House lawyers must wait until everything is presented until they can make their arguments.
All 100 members of the Senate have taken a vow of silence and agreed to hide away their cell phones for the entire duration of the House managers’ presentations, which began with yesterday’s arguments. Since they will not be able to speak or argue with the House managers, they will be able to submit any questions or comments in writing to the Judge at the conclusion of the House managers’ arguments.
The trial began at 1pm EST today (Jan. 22). The House managers and White House lawyers are allowed to make any motion they want at the start of the trial, save for the request for documents or witnesses. Then, the managers have a total of 24 hours to make their points which can be divided over three days. Assuming that the managers use all of their allotted time, the White House lawyers will begin their arguments on January 25, and they are also allotted a total of 24 hours. If they use up their time, they will conclude on January 28. After these opening arguments, McConnell’s trial plan allows for the White House lawyers to make a motion to object evidence collected in the prior investigations.
At the conclusion of these opening statements, Senators have 16 hours to submit any questions in writing since they are not allowed to speak. The Judge will then read each question out loud and indicate which Senator submitted it. Assuming all of these time limits are used completely, the debate on whether the Senate and the White House lawyers can subpoena additional evidence and testimony will begin on January 31. There will be two hours of debate allotted to each side, followed by a vote. If the Senate approves additional testimony, the witnesses would be subpoenaed and would then be privately deposed by the House managers and the White House lawyers before giving their testimony.
After the Trial:
After any witness testimony, the Senate would vote on the two articles of impeachment. The vote will occur without debate, and a two-thirds majority (67 out of 100 Senators) must be achieved to convict the president.
Wanna learn how we got here in the first place? What is impeachment anyway, and what’s its history in the US? Take a listen to our Impeachment Podcast to find out!