Schumer Lays Out Structure Of Senate Impeachment Trial

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced on the eve of the Senate impeachment trial that a deal has been reached on the rules of the impeachment trial.

“For the information of the Senate, the Republican leader and I, in consultation with both the House managers and former President Trump’s lawyers, have agreed to a bipartisan resolution to govern the structure and timing of the impending impeachment trial,” Schumer said in floor remarks Monday afternoon.

“All parties have agreed to a structure that will ensure a fair and honest Senate impeachment trial of the former president,” Schumer said. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) confirmed that Senate leadership have reached a deal on the framework of the impeachment trial, noting that it “preserves die process and the rights of both sides.”

“I’m pleased that Leader Schumer and I were able to reach an agreement on a fair process and estimated timeline for the upcoming Senate trial,” McConnell said. “It will give senators as jurors ample time to receive the case and the arguments.”

Senate resolution:

  • After four hours of debate on the constitutional question Tuesday, there will be a vote at a simple majority threshold to affirm the constitutionality of the proceedings.
  • After that, both the House impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team will have 16 hours spread out over two days to make their case. By this timeline, the House will make their case on Wednesday and Thursday while Trump’s team will do so on Friday and Sunday
  • Then there are four hours for senators’ questions.
  • If there’s a request for witnesses by the House impeachment managers, there will be four hours of debate after the question period, followed by a vote on whether to call a witness.
  • There will then be four hours of closing arguments, evenly divided.
  • Then a vote on conviction or acquittal.

Under a deal reached by Schumer and McConnell, the Senate will kick off with a debate and vote on whether the impeachment trial is constitutional. The effort is similar to Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) motion brought on the floor late last month to dismiss the trial, declaring it unconstitutional and forcing a vote on the issue. The point of motion fell short with only 45 GOP Senators supporting the efforts.

Schumer pushed back on former President Trump’s legal team “central argument” that the Senate impeachment trial is unconstitutional because Trump’s no longer in office, saying the former president’s team is relying on a “fringe legal theory that has been roundly debunked by constitutional scholars from across the political spectrum.”

Opening arguments will begin on Wednesday. Both the House managers and Trump’s legal team will have 16 hours over two days, eight hours each day to make and argue their case to the Senators who will act as jury. The first impeachment trial last year saw both sides each getting 24 hours.

Trump’s attorney David Schoen requested not to hold the trial between 5 pm on Friday until Sunday in order to observe the Jewish Sabbath. Schumer accommodated the request.

“No trial proceedings shall be conducted on Friday, February 12, after 5:00 p.m., or on Saturday, February 13, 2021. The Senate shall convene as a Court of Impeachment at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 14, 2021,” the resolution states.

After both sides are done with their opening arguments, the Senate will have four hours, according to the resolution to ask questions, as well as potential deliberations.

The timeline would allow the trial to wrap up as early as next week if both sides agree not to call witnesses. House impeachment managers last week invited Trump to testify under oath, an offer both the former president and his attorneys rejected. It is unknown as of yet if the managers will call on other witnesses or Senators such as Josh Hawley (R-MO) or Ted Cruz (R-TX).

“As in previous trials, there will be equal time for senator questions and for closing arguments and an opportunity for the Senate to hold deliberations if it so chooses, and then we will vote on the article of impeachment,” Schumer said. 

Schumer noted that the structure of the trial is “eminently fair,” adding that “it will allow for the trial to achieve its purpose in truth and accountability. That’s what trials are designed to do, to arrive at the truth of the matter, and render a verdict.”

The trial will end with an acquittal for Trump as 17 Republicans are needed to join all 50 Democrats, an unlikely situation that will occur.


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