As Donald Trump's second impeachment gets underway today, here's how the trial is expected to unfold

The first public clash between the president’s legal team and the impeachment managers will be over the question of whether the trial is legitimate under the Constitution

The New York Times February 09, 2021 18:17:29 IST
As Donald Trump's second impeachment gets underway today, here's how the trial is expected to unfold

Former president Donald Trump. AP

The second Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump will open on Tuesday, just over a month after the 6  January assault on the Capitol the House has charged him with inciting. Senate leaders agreed on Monday to a plan for an exceptionally speedy proceeding that could conclude in less than half the time of his first.

Monday was a day for pretrial motions, and Trump’s lawyers laid out his defense in a 78-page brief submitted to the Senate, denying that he was responsible for the attack and arguing that in any case, an ex-president could not be tried by the Senate.

In their own filing, the House Democrats who are prosecuting him reiterated their allegation that Trump “willfully” incited the riot and insisted that he was subject to a Senate impeachment trial.

Here is a broad overview of how the trial will unfold under the rules being discussed.

Tuesday: Four hours of debate, then a procedural vote.

The first public clash between the president’s legal team and the impeachment managers will be over the question of whether the trial is legitimate under the Constitution.

Senators plan to allow up to four hours of debate between the managers and defense team on the question that has loomed over the proceedings — whether a former president can be tried by the Senate for high crimes and misdemeanors. No former president has ever been, but the Senate did try a war secretary in the 1870s after he left office.

If a simple majority of senators agree to move forward, as expected, the main part of the trial begins.

Wednesday to Friday or Sunday: 16 hours of oral arguments per side.

The prosecution and defense each have up to 16 hours to present their cases, starting at noon Wednesday under the terms of the deal reached by senators Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell.

“The structure we have agreed to is eminently fair,” Schumer said Monday. “It will allow for the trial to achieve its purpose: truth and accountability.”

Neither side is expected to take the fully allotted time. Senators announced on Monday that they would pause the trial Friday at sundown until Sunday for the Jewish Sabbath based on a request from Trump’s lawyers. But the defense team reversed itself, meaning the trial will likely run straight through Saturday.

Sunday to early the following week: Senators' questions, a possible debate over witnesses and possibly a verdict.

The sequence of what happens next is less certain.

Senators will be allowed at least a day to question the prosecution and defense after they present their cases once their opening presentations conclude.

This time, senators will give the House managers the option to debate and vote on calling witnesses. It is unclear if they will avail themselves of that option.

Trump declined last week to accept the Democrats’ offer to testify voluntarily at his trial, but the managers have yet to decide whether they will try to subpoena him or any other witness. Doing so could bolster their case, but Democrats are also eager to quickly resume their push to pass the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Whenever the witness question is resolved, the trial will conclude with closing arguments and a final, up-or-down vote on whether to convict Trump.

Nicholas Fandos and Glenn Thrush c.2021 The New York Times Company

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