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Impeachment trial likely starts next week after opening rituals

Steven T. Dennis and Billy House, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's impeachment trial is likely to get fully underway next week, a senior Senate Republican said Monday, following a unique series of rituals that include a procession of House managers carrying the two articles through the Capitol Rotunda to the Senate chamber.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects opening arguments on Jan. 21. "Tuesday is what it's feeling like," he told reporters Monday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to name the House impeachment managers on Wednesday. After the House sends the articles to the Senate, Trump would have two days to respond to a summons to provide his defense.

In the meantime, the Senate may handle other business this week, including possible votes on war powers and the revised trade deal with Mexico and Canada, Cornyn, of Texas, said.

Once the trial starts, Cornyn said, senators will be "glued" to their chairs. They won't be allowed to take their tablets, phones or other electronic devices into the Senate chamber, and instead will have to stash them in cubbyholes in the cloakrooms.

The four senators who are running for the Democratic presidential nomination would be stuck in the Senate rather than out campaigning for the Iowa caucuses, which are just three weeks away.

 

Cornyn told reporters that Republicans might finish drafting the trial rules later Monday. One issue they've been debating is whether to allow an initial vote on whether to dismiss the case without a trial, which Trump supported on Twitter over the weekend.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he would generally follow the rules for the 1999 Bill Clinton impeachment trial, allowing each side to make opening statements and take senators' questions before senators make key decisions on whether to call witnesses or simply conclude the trial.

GOP Sen. Roy Blunt said there is "almost no interest" among Republicans in a quick dismissal of the articles before arguments.

The initial stage could take about two weeks without witnesses. Some Republicans, including Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, have said they are either open to witnesses or want both sides to have the opportunity to call them. Four Republicans would be needed to join the 47 Democrats to have enough votes to call witnesses or demand documents withheld by Trump.

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