The Senate is expected to kick off the impeachment trial into President Donald Trump in an open session Tuesday and will move quickly into debating the organizing resolution drafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to a senior administration official involved in talks over the structure of the trial.
The official said the chamber would debate later Tuesday an amendment to McConnell’s resolution drafted by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York.
While this could still change, if it stays in an open session, the impeachment managers and the President’s defense team would be the ones engaged in what will likely be a contentious debate over the measures since senators are not allowed to speak during the trial.
The House impeachment managers on Monday prepared both to make their trial arguments and debate the organizing resolution, according to Democratic aides working on the impeachment inquiry.
House impeachment managers are not anticipating any new evidence to emerge that they would use at the Senate trial, the aides said. but they can’t rule out that additional developments could play a role in the case, given how much has happened over the past month.
The aides said that the Government Accountability Office report last week that said the President violated the Impoundment Control Act would be part of their case. They pushed back on the notion it could be inadmissible as new evidence, arguing they followed the standard of the Bill Clinton trial by submitting it to the Senate last week — though they haven’t seen the text of the organizing resolution.
If senators want to speak to debate the resolution or any amendments, 51 senators would have to vote to go into a closed session. So at the moment, the White House is not expecting a closed session to occur at the beginning of Tuesday’s session — but that could change if the debate drags on.
There’s expected to be two hours of debate on the McConnell resolution equally divided between the two sides. Then, Schumer is expected to offer an amendment to the resolution, and there will be two hours of debate on the Schumer amendment, equally divided on both sides.
Schumer can offer more than one amendment if he chooses, and each would prompt two hours of floor debate. And senators can vote to go to a closed session at any time.
Also, the Senate is set up to allow each side to use audio and visual elements to make their case. There are four televisions set up on the Senate floor for that purpose. The official noted that in 1999 there were videos played but there is a world of new possibilities for the monitors to be used, including PowerPoint and tweets.
The official also signaled Trump is supportive of the proposal from Senate Republicans to hold two 12-hour sessions apiece for opening arguments. The official argued Trump wants the trial done “as quickly as possible to his case to argue against the false facts and false process is something that’s very important to him.”
House Democrats strongly disagree. One Democratic aide criticized McConnell for not releasing the text of the rules of the trial less than a day before it was set to begin, calling it a “complete miscarriage of justice.”
The managers are prepared to argue their case under the potential timeline Republicans are considering, saying it would not affect their arguments. But they accused Senate Republicans of trying to get the trial done as quickly as possible ahead of the President’s February 4 State of the Union address, calling the potential late-night sessions “a disservice and a discredit not only senate but American people.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.