White House officials on Wednesday played down the idea that the coming Senate impeachment trial could last longer than two weeks — an estimate that’s at odds with what even top Senate Republicans believe about how long the trial will last.
“It’s extraordinarily unlikely that we’d be going on beyond two weeks,” a senior administration official said on a phone call with reporters. The official was asked about the prospect that President Trump would postpone his plans to give the the State of the Union on Feb. 4 if the trial was still ongoing at that time.
“We think that this case is overwhelming for the President and the Senate is not going to have any need to be taking that amount of time on this,” the official said.
The official requested anonymity as a ground rule for hosting the call.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has not released the resolution dictating the trial procedures, but he has suggested it would largely follow the model of the Clinton impeachment trial.
In that trial, the House management team and the President’s defense were each given up to 24 hours of floor time (spread across several days) to present their initial case. The Clinton resolution also provided a period for senators to a submit written questions to each side — a phase that also could last several days.
Later on in the call, the senior Trump administration official stressed not to assume anything about the length of the presentation the defense team had planned.
“The reason it doesn’t take a very long time is that the facts are simple,” the official said, “and the facts are on the President’s side, and the House Democrats don’t have any credible evidence to show any wrongdoing. When you have an easy case, you don’t need a long time to present it.”
The White House has been pushing for the Senate to vote to dismiss case early on in the trial — a move that requires only 51 votes. (There are currently 53 Republican senators).
However, McConnell has said there was little interest in his caucus to dismiss the case before the senators hear the arguments of both sides.
On the call Wednesday, the administration official said a vote to dismiss the case would be “appropriate” because it would demonstrate that “this [case] is so insubstantial we shouldn’t spend more time on it.”
The official declined to say if or when the President’s legal team would bring up such a motion themselves.