/Proposed rules for Trumps Senate impeachment trial could set up a heated debate on Tuesday

Proposed rules for Trumps Senate impeachment trial could set up a heated debate on Tuesday

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will likely start with a fierce debate between Democrats and Republicans over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed rules for the first stage of the Senate trial. 

According to a copy of the four-page draft organizing resolution for the trial obtained by USA TODAY, all evidence from the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry must be printed out and made available to all senators before the lawmakers will be able to vote on admitting the materials at a later time.  

The Senate will debate and vote on these rules Tuesday. 

The Democratic impeachment managers and the president’s lawyers would be given 24 hours each to present their cases. Under these rules, each side’s presentations must take place over two working days in the Senate – meaning that presentations could go late into the night. 

Following the presentations, senators are allowed to question both sides for a period of 16 hours, though it does not place a restriction on the number of days for the question period. 

Votes on calling witnesses or documents will not be allowed until after the question phase of the trial. Senators will be given four hours to debate witnesses and documents. 

The rules also allow for a motion to be introduced to dismiss the impeachment charges outright, but Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said yesterday on “Fox News Sunday” such an effort would be “dead for practical purposes” because Republicans did not have the votes to do so. 

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The House of Representatives impeached Trump on Dec. 18 for abuse of power and obstruction of justice. Democrats allege Trump abused his power by pressuring the Ukrainian government to open investigations into his political rivals, and then stonewalled the House’s investigation of his conduct. 

Convicting Trump and removing him from office requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which is currently controlled by Republicans. 

During the Senate trial, Democrats seek the testimony of four current or former Trump administration officials who failed to take part in the impeachment inquiry like former national security adviser John Bolton. Bolton has offered to testify if subpoenaed. 

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Republicans, on the other hand, have argued that Democrats’ impeachment case is deficient because it requires further testimony. Some, like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., have threatened to call for former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden to testify if Democrats try to call their witnesses. 

A simple majority vote of 51 senators is required to pass a motion to call witnesses or documents. There are currently 47 Democratic senators, which means four Republicans would have to join all Democrats in voting for witnesses. 

A senior Republican leadership aide explained that the rules are set to model those of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in January 1999. 

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., denounced the resolution setting up the trial as a “national disgrace.”

“It’s clear Senator McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through,” Schumer said. “On something as important as impeachment, Senator McConnell’s resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace.”

The New York Democrat also slammed the potentially late hours for presentations as a sign McConnell “doesn’t want the American people to hear” the facts of the case.  

Schumer said he would be introducing amendments to the resolution in order to “address the many flaws in this deeply unfair proposal” and to subpoena documents and witnesses.