President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is set to unfold at the Capitol, a contentious proceeding to render judgment on his Ukraine actions as Americans form their own verdict at the start of an election year.
As the Senate reconvenes with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding over the rare impeachment court, senators sworn to “impartial justice,” the legacy of Trump’s presidency and the system of checks and balances are at stake before a politically divided nation. A first test will come midday Tuesday when the session gavels open to vote on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed rules for debate.
On the eve of the trial, the Republican leader offered a compressed calendar for opening statements, just two days for each side, as Trump’s lawyers argued for swift rejection of the “flimsy” charges against the president and acquittal.
“All of this is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn,” the president’s lawyers wrote in their first full filing Monday. “The articles should be rejected and the president should immediately be acquitted.”
Democrats — as the House prosecutors practiced opening arguments well into the night on the Senate floor — vowed to object to a speedy trial as they pressed for fresh witnesses and documents.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warned of a “cover-up” with McConnell’s plan that could lead to back-to-back 12-hour days.“It’s clear Sen. McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through,” Schumer said. He called the proposed rules a “national disgrace.”
The first several days of the trial are now almost certain to be tangled in procedural motions playing out on the Senate floor or, more likely, behind closed doors, since senators must refrain from speaking during the trial proceedings.Senators are poised for only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, coming just weeks before the first primaries of the 2020 election, with four senators running for the Democratic nomination sidelined from campaigning.