Update: The Trump Impeachment Trial
How much longer will it continue?
The Senate voted to approve proposed rules for the impeachment trial last Tuesday, which set forth a tentative schedule. The anticipated vote on whether or not to call witnesses and subpoena documents was postponed until later in the trial, which follows the precedent of the impeachment trial for Bill Clinton (and will largely determine the overall length of the trial).
Both sides have had a chance at making motions, and the seven house managers who will be acting as the prosecution have had an approved 24 hours over three days to make their case. The following three days, which also consisted of an approved 24 hours, featured the president’s legal team arguing in his defense.
Last Wednesday afternoon, senators were given the first of two days to spend 16 approved hours probing House managers and the president’s defense team, which concluded the end of Thursday. These questions will continue to be submitted in writing to Chief Justice John Roberts.
With deliberation, the Senate will then vote on whether or not to call additional witnesses and subpoena documents (admitting new evidence) in a majority vote. This will largely determine the length of the trial, which could conclude in a vote (requiring ⅔ to convict) by the end of the week, should this be voted in favor against. If voted in favor of, the trial could last well into next month.
The Trial So Far
After debate over the rules for the trial, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to extend the length of opening arguments from two to three days in concession to the Democrats’ disapproval of such a narrow limit, Adam Schiff opened the arguments for the prosecution and did much of the talking himself over the three days.
From Wednesday to Thursday, House managers covered the “abuse of power” charge over the involvement of President Trump with the Ukrainian government. In their oral arguments, they discussed depositions and meetings from the previous year – as well as produced audio and video evidence, including the call between Trump and the President of Ukraine – in order to portray guilt in asking (or guiding his administration into doing so) Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden and their involvement in Ukraine.
On Friday, House managers presented arguments for the second charge, obstruction of Congress, claiming Trump guilty for refusing to let certain administration officials appear before the House of Representatives to answer questions. The prosecution’s arguments have been dubbed by the Senate Republicans as unnecessarily repetitive, while Democrats and House managers claim this was their intent and that there is clear evidence worthy of impeachment that only needs intense presentation.
Following this, the President’s defense team spent Saturday, Monday and Tuesday giving their arguments (with Sunday being the only day approved for which the trial would be on a break).
The President’s defense argued that that the aid to Ukraine, which Democrats claim he was withholding on the condition of their investigation of Joe Biden (a kind of bribery known as quid pro quo), was completely free of a political motive, was not on the condition of investigations and was only over the concern of corruption in Ukraine and not of his political rivals.
They also claimed that the trial was extremely politically polarized, merely a disagreement of policy or move to gain ground in the upcoming election and not a concern over a fair judgment, attacked the extreme vagueness of the charges and highlighted the president’s constitutional power of shaping foreign policy. Democrats said this included investigating foreign corruption, even that which may coincidentally include a political rival.
Additionally, they said that even if the quid quo pro was true, it would be constitutionally invalid for impeachment, claiming this “bar” was “too low” for impeachment. They finished in the afternoon Tuesday with almost thirteen hours of leftover allotted time after attacking House managers for their repetitive arguments and claiming they were wasting time.
What Comes Next?
The senators are currently in the process of probing both the prosecutors and the defense over their presentations in the form of written questions submitted to Chief Justice Roberts.
Afterward, they will have time to deliberate and will vote on whether to admit new evidence. Democrats wish to call witnesses claiming that a fair trial would include that opportunity, most notably former national security advisor John Bolton, whose coming book allegedly testifies that the military aid was linked to the investigations of the Bidens. Republicans on the other hand, overall, hope to defeat this vote and, though Mitch McConnell has previously said that he doesn’t have the votes to do so, some Republicans, including Ted Cruz have claimed they can get there. The vote on whether to admit new evidence is expected was blocked 51-49. Two Republicans voted with the Democrats – Susan Collins and Mitt Romney.