WASHINGTON, JANUARY 14: President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is likely to get fully underway next week, a senior Senate Republican said, following a unique series of rituals that include a procession of House managers carrying the 2 articles through the Capitol Rotunda to the Senate chamber.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas said he expects opening arguments on January 21. “Tuesday is what it’s feeling like,” he told reporters Monday.
The House is poised to vote Wednesday on the impeachment managers named by Speaker Nancy Pelosi followed by a vote to authorize transmittal of the articles to the Senate, according to a person familiar the plans. Trump then would have 2 days to respond to a summons to provide his defense.
In the meantime, the Senate may handle other business this week, including possible votes on war powers and the revised trade deal with Mexico and Canada, Cornyn said.
Once the trial starts, Cornyn said, Senators will be “glued” to their chairs. They won’t be allowed to take their tablets, phones or other electronic devices into the Senate chamber, and instead will have to stash them in cubbyholes in the cloakrooms.
The 4 Senators who are running for the Democratic presidential nomination would be stuck in the Senate rather than out campaigning for the Iowa caucuses, which are just 3 weeks away.
Cornyn told reporters that Republicans may finish drafting the trial rules later Monday. One issue they’ve been debating is whether to allow an initial vote on whether to dismiss the charges without a full trial, which Trump supported on Twitter over the weekend.
Almost no interest
But GOP Senator Roy Blunt said there is “almost no interest” among Republicans in a quick dismissal of the articles before arguments.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he would generally follow the rules for the 1999 Bill Clinton impeachment trial, allowing each side to make opening statements and take Senators’ questions before Senators make key decisions on whether to call witnesses or simply conclude the trial.
The initial stage could take about 2 weeks without witnesses. Some Republicans have said they are either open to witnesses or want both sides to have the opportunity to call them. Four Republicans would be needed to join the 47 Democrats to have enough votes to call witnesses or demand documents withheld by Trump.
GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah separately on Monday said they wanted to ensure there will be an opportunity to vote on calling witnesses or other information later in the trial.
Collins said she would not have pushed for such an opportunity “if I did not anticipate that at the end of hearing the case presented and the Q&A’s that there might be a need for more information,” she said.
Murkowski said she wants to ensure “we can ask for more information, and if that means witnesses or documents, how we can get more information.”
Romney said he would vote against witnesses at the start of the trial but expects to vote to call for former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton and perhaps others later in the trial.
Collins, who has said she’s working with a small group of Republicans on the issue, backed witnesses against Clinton but later voted to acquit him. She also backed a reopened FBI background check into Brett Kavanaugh and later voted to confirm him to the Supreme Court.
“I tend to like information,” she said.
Cornyn said witnesses likely will be called only if the facts are disputed. He said he wasn’t sure whether any witnesses “would be able to shed any additional light or change the fact that the underlying facts are pretty much undisputed.”
McConnell has all but guaranteed an acquittal for Trump, and no Republican has said the President has committed an impeachable offense.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said Republicans will be guilty of a “cover-up” if they block witnesses and documents that Trump withheld from the House investigation.
Cornyn contended the trial “isn’t really about the President being convicted and removed any more; this is about Senator Schumer trying to force incumbent Senators into tough votes on witnesses.” He added, “That’s where the game is being played.”
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff are likely to be among the trial managers chosen by Pelosi, according to multiple officials.
The managers’ names will be included in a resolution the House plans to pass as part of the process of transmitting 2 articles of impeachment to the Senate. The resolution will authorize funding for the Senate trial and the transmittal of House evidence.
A number of lawmakers on the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, as well as other House Democrats, have lobbied to be named to the managers’ team. Republicans chose 13 managers from the Judiciary Committee for Clinton’s trial, but an official familiar with Pelosi’s thinking said she isn’t expected to choose that many.
After the House passes the resolution, House officials plan to hold a ceremony outside the House chamber to mark the start of the transmission to the Senate. Then comes the procession of House managers to the Senate; after delivery, the managers will return to the House side of the Capitol.