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Senate Leaders Reach Deal on Framework of Impeachment Trial

February 9, 2021 by Dan McCue
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., joined at left by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the majority whip, speaks at a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – Senate Leaders Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Monday they have reached a deal on the framework for former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, which will start today.

“For the information of the Senate, the Republican leader and I, in consultation with both the House managers and Former President Trump’s lawyers, have agreed to a bipartisan resolution to govern the structure and timing of the impending trial,” Schumer said from the Senate floor. 

“All parties have agreed to a structure that will ensure a fair and honest Senate impeachment trial of the former president,” Schumer said.

A short time later, McConnell confirmed the agreement, saying it “preserves due process and the rights of both sides.”

McConnell went on to say that the plan “will give senators as jurors ample time to receive the case and the arguments.”

Later, President Trump’s legal team weighed in with a written statement saying they were pleased that there was bipartisan support on how to structure the impeachment trial.

“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,” Trump’s lawyers said.

As outlined in press releases from both leaders’ offices, the proceedings will start Tuesday with the Senate debating whether or not the trial is constitutional.

Opening arguments will start on Wednesday. Under the terms of the agreement the House impeachment managers and Trump’s team will each have 16 hours over two days to present their case to the Senate. That’s somewhat less than Trump’s first trial, where each side got 24 hours to make its case. 

If the managers decide they want witnesses, there will be a vote on that, which is the option they requested in regard to witnesses. 

The trial will also accommodate a request from the former president’s counsel to pause the trial during the Sabbath: the trial will break on Friday afternoon before sundown and will not resume until Sunday afternoon. 

As in previous trials, there will be equal time for Senators’ questions and for closing arguments, and an opportunity for the Senate to hold deliberations, if it so chooses.

In previous trials, senators have had two days for the question-and-answer session. According to the resolution of the trial’s rules senators will get four hours to ask questions. 

Both sides will get two hours for closing arguments. 

If neither side calls witnesses, the trial could be over next week. And it is still widely expected to end in acquittal, as Democrats are not expected to be able to get the 67 votes needed to convict the former president. 

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