Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are finalizing the trial organizing resolution that will lay out the rules of the proceedings. While the agreement is not set, it would include a four-hour debate on the constitutionality of the trial on Tuesday, followed by a vote on that question.
Beginning Wednesday at noon ET, the impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team would have up to 16 hours per side to make their presentations, the person said, down from the 24 hours each side was given for Trump’s first impeachment trial.
At the request of the managers, there would be an option to hold a debate and vote on calling witnesses. And at the request of Trump’s attorney David Schoen, an observant Jew, there would be no trial proceedings during the Sabbath, after 5 p.m. ET, on Friday through Saturday. Then the trial would reconvene on Sunday afternoon.
“We are finalizing a resolution that’s been agreed to by all parties — the House managers, the former President’s counsel, Leader McConnell and I — that will ensure a fair, honest, bipartisan Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump,” Schumer said on Monday, adding that if the managers want to call witnesses, “There’ll be a vote on that — that’s what they requested.”
When the trial begins, the House impeachment managers are to make their case to the public — and the 100 senators who are jurors for the trial — that Trump is responsible for last month’s deadly riots at the US Capitol. They’ve been diligently preparing a presentation for when the trial gets underway Tuesday, relying on the hours of video footage available from January 6 to try to illustrate in visceral detail how the rioters were incited by Trump and his months of lies that the election was stolen from him.
Trump’s legal team plans to argue that Trump did not incite the rioters, and that the trial of a former president is unconstitutional after the House rushed to impeach Trump without giving him the chance to mount any defense.
On Monday, Trump’s legal team accused Democrats of creating “political theater” as they argued in a pretrial brief that the upcoming Senate impeachment trial was unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president.
“This was only ever a selfish attempt by Democratic leadership in the House to prey upon the feelings of horror and confusion that fell upon all Americans across the entire political spectrum upon seeing the destruction at the Capitol on January 6 by a few hundred people,” Trump’s lawyers wrote Monday.
“Instead of acting to heal the nation, or at the very least focusing on prosecuting the lawbreakers who stormed the Capitol, the Speaker of the House and her allies have tried to callously harness the chaos of the moment for their own political gain,” the brief added.
The 75-page legal brief from Trump’s attorneys expands upon their initial response to the House’s impeachment last week, in which they argued that the trial was unconstitutional, that Trump didn’t incite the rioters and that his speech spreading false conspiracies about widespread election fraud is protected by the First Amendment. Trump’s team argued that his declaration on January 6 for his supporters to “fight like hell” was rhetoric being used in a “figurative” sense, and the managers ignored Trump’s comments about remaining peaceful.
“It was not and could not be construed to encourage acts of violence,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.
The House managers responded to Trump’s lawyers on Monday in a five-page, pretrial brief that pushed back on the contention that the trial was unconstitutional and Trump’s speech did not incite the rioters at the Capitol on January 6.
The brief, which was written in response to Trump’s filing last week, argued that Trump’s reliance on the First Amendment was “utterly baseless” and it was provable Trump lied about election fraud.
“President Trump’s repeated claims about a ‘rigged’ and ‘stolen’ election were false, no matter how many contortions his lawyers undertake to avoid saying so,” the House managers wrote.
“The evidence of President Trump’s conduct is overwhelming. He has no valid excuse or defense for his actions. And his efforts to escape accountability are entirely unavailing,” they added.
‘I think it’s very unlikely’
The other key Republican senators voted with Toomey and the Democrats that the trial was constitutional: Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
Democrats’ case will rely on video of the rioters themselves on January 6 as well as their comments, laid out in subsequent indictments, of how they were inspired by Trump to attack the Capitol and attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
‘This is all about a political theater’
In their legal filing last week, Trump’s team argued that his speech was protected by the First Amendment, and he did not incite the rioters who attacked the Capitol. But perhaps the bigger argument his lawyers plan to make — and the one that Senate Republicans are likely point to in an acquittal vote — is that the trial of a former official is not constitutional.
“This is all about a political theater,” former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo on Sunday. “It’s really about Democrats trying to once again make a political point. Listen, this whole impeachment is designed to remove someone from office. President Trump is a private citizen at this point.”
Still, there have been legal scholars on both sides of the aisle who say that a trial is constitutional, as Trump was impeached by the House while he was still president and the Constitution gives the Senate the power to bar someone from holding future public office, in addition to removing officials from office.
“The senators who supported Mr. Paul’s motion should reconsider their view and judge the former president’s misconduct on the merits,” Cooper wrote.
“We have the unusual circumstance where on the very first day of the trial, when those managers walk on the floor of the Senate, there will already be over 100 witnesses present, and those will be the House and Senate members,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager during Trump’s first impeachment, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Whether you need additional witnesses will be a strategic call for the House managers.”
Debate over witnesses looms over start of trial
Still, some Senate Democrats say they don’t want to hamstring the managers for the sake of speed. Because Democrats control the Senate, they have the votes to allow for witnesses without GOP support, unlike in the 2020 trial.
“I think we should be consistent,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said on “Fox News Sunday” about Senate Democrats’ push in the first trial to subpoena witnesses.
“This time, we saw what happened in real time,” Murphy added. “President Trump sent that angry mob to the Capitol on live TV, so it’s not as important that you have witnesses, but if the House managers want witnesses, we should allow them to be able to put them on.”
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Monday.