impeachment

Senate Republicans plan speedy Trump trial

Senate Republicans plan to pass impeachment trial rules giving both the White House counsel and House impeachment managers 24 hours over two days each to make opening arguments.

Mitch McConnell

Senate Republicans released their partisan impeachment trial resolution on Monday evening, a blueprint that could result in President Donald Trump’s swift acquittal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to pass impeachment trial rules giving both the White House counsel and House impeachment managers 24 hours over two days each to make opening arguments, according to a copy of the resolution. That will be followed by 16 total hours of questions and answers, culminating in a four-hour debate and a critical vote over whether to consider witnesses or new information.

The resolution needs a majority to pass the Senate and Republicans control 53 seats. Under the most aggressive implementation of the rule — and provided Republicans vote down the witness question — the trial could conclude late next week.

The speedy timetable prompted complaints from Democrats, who see the possibility of 12-hour days and midnight arguments as an attempt to cover-up the trial. A House Democratic aide indicated that 12-hour days or arguments beginning at 1 p.m. would ensure that arguments stretch deep into the night, possibly until 2 or 3 a.m. when breaks are factored in.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), said the resolution is a “national disgrace” and it is “clear Senator McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through.” Schumer specifically dinged language in the resolution that doesn’t automatically admit the House’s evidence into the trial.

"Senator McConnell is saying he doesn’t want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn’t want to hear any new evidence. A trial where no evidence - no existing record, no witnesses, no documents – isn’t a trial at all — It’s a cover up,” Schumer said.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said Monday that McConnell "wants a fast trial, not a fair trial."

But it was clear the president and his team were happy with the result.

“We are gratified that the draft resolution protects the [president's] rights to a fair trial, and look forward to presenting a vigorous defense on the facts and the process as quickly as possible, and seeking an acquittal as swiftly as possible,” said Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director.

There is no explicit reference to a motion to dismiss the trial in the resolution. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure on Tuesday, with Republicans set to vote along party lines and ignore Democrats’ demands to lock in witnesses and new documentary evidence before the trial’s arguments begin later this week.

Schumer will offer his motion to subpoena four key administration witnesses and documents about the Trump administration’s efforts to delay aid to Ukraine and the president’s hopes that the Ukraine government announce a probe into former Vice President Joe Biden. That vote is likely to fail due to a pact among Senate Republicans to punt the witness question until later in the trial.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has said he wants to hear from former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, reiterated Monday that he will support the organizing resolution and oppose attempts to vote on witnesses prior to the opening arguments.

"I have made clear to my colleagues and the public that the Senate should have the opportunity to decide on witnesses following the opening arguments, as occurred in the Clinton trial," Romney said in a statement. "The organizing resolution released tonight includes this step, and overall, it aligns closely with the rules package approved 100-0 during the Clinton trial."

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who also wants to listen to the opening arguments before deciding on whether to call witnesses or request more documents, highlighted that the resolution "guarantees a vote on whether we need additional evidence at the appropriate time."

The Senate will convene at 1 p.m. Tuesday to begin debating the McConnell resolution. Schumer’s amendment to that with witness and document requests is expected to receive the first vote late on Tuesday afternoon.

Any other motions from House managers or the White House counsel will be considered on Wednesday, followed by the opening arguments.

John Bresnahan and Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.