By Wednesday, Donald Trump could be the third president to be impeached. But how the Senate trial will be structured is still up in the air.
Author: Travis Pittman, TEGNA, MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press
House leaders are preparing for the final impeachment vote against President Donald Trump, expected to happen this week, just as lawmakers are about to leave for the holiday break. Approval would set up a 2020 trial in the Senate, but what that looks like and how long it will last is still unclear.
A meeting to set debate rules for the full House is scheduled for Tuesday with the final vote expected Wednesday. Floor consideration is expected to be much like that of a regular bill.
If either of the impeachment articles against Trump — abuse of power or obstruction of Congress — is approved, Trump would join Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton as the only presidents to be impeached.
Meanwhile, Senate leaders are considering how to structure a trial for Trump, likely to start in January, in which the senators will act as the jurors. How it is handled will determine if it’s a quick trial or a lengthy one. Regardless, Trump is not expected to be convicted or removed from office.
In a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer proposed calling four witnesses during a trial that could last three weeks or longer.
Two of them are former National Security Advisor John Bolton and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. The others are senior Mulvaney adviser Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official Michael Duffey, according to the Associated Press. In addition to being Chief of Staff, Mulvaney is head of OMB. But it’s uncertain if any of the proposed witnesses will be approved.
While Republicans have a 53-47 majority, McConnell must have 51 votes to approve most motions which include the trial rules, according to AP. So he can’t unilaterally decide every aspect of how the trial will proceed and he can’t afford to lose more than two Republicans unless some Democrats vote with him.
McConnell told Fox News’ Sean Hannity last week that he will coordinate with the White House counsel on how to proceed with the trial.
“But we’ll be working through this process hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president, in the way all of the Senate,” McConnell said.
Democrats have called this a conflict of interest, arguing that this would be like the jury foreman working directly with the defense attorney. Some Republicans have countered, reportedly arguing that since this is a political trial and not a criminal one, the same rules do not apply.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who has defended Trump throughout the impeachment process, told CNN he won’t pretend to be a “fair juror” in the trial, calling it “partisan nonsense.”
McConnell made it clear to Hannity that he believes Trump will not be removed from office. That requires 67 senators to convict, which would mean 20 Republicans need to agree even if every Democrat and independent does so as well.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over the trial.
Selected members of the House will act as impeachment managers — essentially, the prosecution.
The Washington Post reports a group of 30 freshman Democrats want independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan to be one of the managers as a way to show the process is not partisan. Amash was a Republican up until July. The conservative has been a vocal Trump critic, calling for his impeachment after reading Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
A long trial could affect campaigning for the Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses. Five of the candidates — Senators Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — would have to be in Washington, DC, to attend the trial. The first four nominating contests take place in February.
At least one House Democrat who has said he plans to vote against impeaching Trump is leaving to join the Republican party. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-NJ, made the announcement over the weekend. Some Democrats cited internal polling numbers that showed voters in district did not want to re-nominate Van Drew as his reason for switching.