What to expect in week 2 of Trump’s Senate impeachment trial

Member of the committee work during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Trump impeachment goes to full House after Judiciary panel approves charges of abuse of power, obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

The first week of President Trump’s impeachment trial concluded early Saturday afternoon, with the White House legal team making opening remarks for their argument. The trial will resume at 1 p.m. on Monday, when the president’s lawyers will continue their defense.

The trial could end as early as this week, or stretch into next month. The timeline depends on a range of factors, most notably whether there are enough votes in the Senate to allow debate over issuing subpoenas for witnesses and evidence.

Here is what to expect from this week in the impeachment trial:

Trump team’s closing arguments

Under the organizing resolution designed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the president’s legal team has a total of 24 hours to make their arguments, spread out over three days. They only used two hours on Saturday, so the team has 22 more to make their case.

However, White House counsel Pat Cipollone indicated the president’s team would not use all its time.

“We are going to be very respectful of your time,” Cipollone said in his opening statement. “You heard the House managers speak for nearly 24 hours over three days. We don’t anticipate using that much time.”

Longtime Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz and former independent counsel Ken Starr are expected to make separate presentations in Mr. Trump’s defense on Monday. They are the two most prominent members of Mr. Trump’s legal team. Dershowitz is a constitutional scholar who has become a fixture on Fox News in recent years. Starr was the independent counsel whose investigation into Clinton ultimately led to his impeachment.

The other attorneys on the president’s legal team include private counsel Jay Sekulow, former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi and other White House lawyers.

Possible objections to House evidence

After the president’s team concludes, they’ll be given the chance to object to pieces of evidence collected by the House in its impeachment inquiry.

The organizing resolution says materials “will be admitted into evidence, subject to any hearsay, evidentiary, or other objections that the president may make after opening presentations.”

As the House managers submitted over 28,000 pages of evidence to the secretary of the Senate, this could take some time if the president’s team decide to fight the inclusion of certain documents or testimony. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, could rule on the objections himself or defer to senators to debate and vote.

The White House lawyers may choose not to object to any of the House’s evidence, which means the trial would skip straight to the next step.

Questions from senators

After the president’s lawyers conclude their arguments, senators have up to 16 hours to ask questions of the House managers and White House legal team. Senators aren’t permitted to address their colleagues during the impeachment trial, meaning they have to write the questions and submit them to Roberts.

Roberts will then pose the questions to the House managers or the president’s lawyers, and indicate which senator submitted the question when reading it aloud.

Debate and vote on whether to consider witnesses

After the 16 hours of questioning have concluded, senators will hear debate over whether to consider motions to subpoena certain witnesses or documents. The resolution calls for four hours of debate divided equally between the House managers and the defense, followed by a vote.

Democrats need four Republicans to join them in voting to move forward to consider motions on individual subpoenas. If they do, then each side can offer resolutions to issue subpoenas. If the vote fails, no new witnesses will be called.

Possible votes on subpoenas for witnesses

If the Senate decides to consider witnesses, Democrats are expected to propose subpoenas for acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton and others. The White House attorneys would also have the opportunity to submit motions for their own witnesses, and may propose subpoenas for former Vice President Joe Biden or his son, Hunter.

Each motion would require time for debate and a vote. Under the Senate’s rules for impeachment trials, each side gets one hour to argue for or against a motion. The chamber could agree to longer or shorter periods of debate if needed.

If a motion to call a witness passes, the Senate issues a subpoena in Roberts’ name, demanding the person appear at a designated time.

Possible depositions

The organizing resolution says any witnesses who receive subpoenas must first participate in closed depositions, with one attorney from each side allowed to pose questions. Senators would then decide whether to call them to testify before the full Senate.

In the Clinton impeachment trial, three witnesses were deposed behind closed doors, with recordings of the interviews made available to senators. None of them were called to appear in the Senate chamber.

Vote on removing the president from office

The timeline for the remainder of the trial varies widely depending on whether senators decide to allow debate over calling witnesses. If they do, the trial could stretch into February. If they decline, the final vote on whether to remove Mr. Trump would likely occur this week.

Sixty-seven senators must find Mr. Trump guilty in order to remove him from office, which is extremely unlikely. A vote this week would raise the prospect of Mr. Trump being acquitted just days before his State of the Union address before both chambers of Congress, currently scheduled for February 4.

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