Schumer Announces Rough Schedule, Rules For Impeachment Trial

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 08: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) arrives at the U.S. Capitol on February 08, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Senate will be start President Donald Trump's trial this week after ... WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 08: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) arrives at the U.S. Capitol on February 08, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Senate will be start President Donald Trump's trial this week after the House of Representatives impeached him for the second time in a year. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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February 8, 2021 5:59 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Monday unveiled the Senate resolution outlining the form that former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will take. 

The trial plan sets aside Tuesday for a debate over the constitutionality of trying Trump in the first place, and also ends Friday’s proceedings around an hour before sundown — a concession for one of Trump’s lawyers, who observes the Jewish sabbath — before picking up again on Sunday. 

Schumer said that “all parties” — House impeachment managers, Trump’s counsel and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — had agreed to the trial plan, and Trump’s team said as much in a statement of their own. 

“President Trump and his counsel are pleased that there was bipartisan support on how to structure the impeachment trial,” read a statement from Trump’s office. “We appreciate that Senate Republican leadership stood strong for due process and secured a structure that is consistent with past precedent. This process will provide us with an opportunity to explain to Senators why it is absurd and unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial against a private citizen.” 

The Supposed Constitutional Question

The trial plan does in fact set aside the first four hours of evenly-divided argument for debate on whether Trump is subject to the impeachment jurisdiction at all “notwithstanding the expiration of his term in that office.” 

Trump and most Republican senators have claimed it’s unconstitutional to try a former president in an impeachment proceeding, though most legal scholars disagree.

Trump’s counsel even warned in a briefing Monday that, if he were to run for office again in the future, he would challenge the results of “an unauthorized Senate vote” that disqualified him from holding future office.

Both Sides Make Their Case

Both sides will have until 9 a.m. ET Wednesday to submit motions for the impeachment trial — with the exception of evidentiary motions, such as those to subpoena witnesses or documents — and responses to those motions are due by 11 a.m. the same day. Arguments on those motions will begin at noon Wednesday, followed by the actual presentations for or against the article of impeachment against Trump. 

The House of Representatives’ team of impeachment managers will have 16 hours over two days to make its case, followed by the same allotment for Trump’s defense team. 

After the break at 5 p.m. Friday and a day off on Saturday, the trial will start up again on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Questions Remain Over Witnesses, Ultimate Length Of Trial

After both sides have made their case, senators will be allowed to question the parties over a four-hour period during a single day. 

After that, there will be two hours of argument on the question of whether to consider motions to subpoena witnesses or documents, followed by a vote on the matter. If any witnesses are ultimately allowed to be subpoenaed, they’ll first be deposed and “appropriate discovery” will be allowed before a separate vote on allowing their testimony in the impeachment trial itself. It’s unclear how long that would take. 

If witness subpoenas aren’t allowed, House impeachment managers and the President’s team will be allowed to admit materials into evidence, but only after disclosing them to the other side at least 48 hours ahead of time — and, after that, following an evenly split hour of debate on the evidence and another vote. 

After four hours of evenly divided closing arguments, the trial will be over. Then, the Senate will vote on the article of impeachment itself. 

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