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McConnell Lays Out Plan for Trump's Trial

Each side will have 24 hours to make opening arguments
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 20, 2020 7:15 PM CST
A Senate resolution shows Mitch McConnell's plan for the impeachment trial.   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

(Newser) – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to seek a speedy impeachment trial of President Trump. In a Senate resolution released Monday evening, the AP reports, McConnell detailed the structure for the trial's opening phase, with votes on witnesses deferred until next week. The resolution would permit Trump's lawyers to move early on to win acquittal of the president and sets up a vote next week on calling witnesses. Below is the way the trial would go under McConnell's plan.

First fight: McConnell's resolution does not specifically allow for witnesses to testify, and Democrats promise to try to guarantee that witnesses, documents and other evidence are part of the trial. Any debate on these topics must be conducted in closed session under the Senate's impeachment rules.

Initial motions: After the Senate adopts the organizing resolution, which will consume Tuesday, the legal teams for Trump and the House on Wednesday will be able to offer motions on housekeeping questions involving matters other than evidence or witnesses. In theory, Trump's team could move to dismiss the case altogether.

Opening arguments: House impeachment managers will have 24 hours—packed into only two days—to make their opening arguments. The White House will have the same amount of time to respond, though Trump's lawyers may not use it all.

Questions: Sixteen hours will be reserved for senators to ask questions of both legal teams. Those questions will be posed in writing through Chief Justice John Roberts, who will preside.

Witnesses: The issue of whether to call witnesses and which ones to call will be considered with up to four hours of argument by the White House and House Democrats. The Senate may go into closed session to debate further and then have a series of votes. If witnesses are called, they will be deposed before any potential live Senate testimony.

The verdict: After the Senate finishes deliberations, it will vote on the two impeachment articles, which requires a two-thirds vote to find Trump guilty and remove him from office.

(A defense brief filed Monday calls for a quick acquittal.)


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