MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The United States Senate will be tasked Tuesday with answering this question: Did President Donald Trump violate his oath of office?
The president’s legal team filed a brief Monday saying the charges against him are not impeachable offenses.
It is already clear Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants this impeachment trial to go quickly. He is proposing that each side will get 24 hours over the next two days to make opening statements. If that proposal is approved, Senators will have to sit for 12-hour sessions each day.
And that is just one of the many complicated particulars that will come up in the coming days, and possibly weeks.
Here are four things you need to know about the impeachment trial.
Tuesday is about laying the ground rules. The most important decision that needs to be made is whether or not witnesses will be allowed to testify, according to Augsburg University Political Science Professor Andy Aoki.
“As information came out during the house proceedings, it became clear that some of these other people may have significant knowledge of what went on here,” Aoki said. “John Bolton, former national security advisor in particular.”
Most Senate Republicans don’t want that to happen.
A majority vote is needed to allow witnesses, which would require four Republican Senators to vote in favor of allowing it.
You can expect to hear from President Trump and media outlets online, setting this impeachment trial apart from others in history — but you will not hear a word from the Senators themselves.
“Senators are not supposed to talk,” Aoki said. “They’re not supposed to have their cellphones or anything. They’re just supposed to sit and listen.”
If they do need to debate the rules Tuesday, the cameras will turn off, and Senators will go into a closed session.
This is the third impeachment trial in U.S. history. The first involved Andrew Johnson in 1868, and the second involved Bill Clinton in 1998. The infrequency of trials like this makes the coming weeks very unpredictable.
“While we don’t know what the final numbers will be, there’s really no question that he’s not going to be removed, unless something extremely unexpected happens between now and then,” Aoki said.
So how long will the trial last? Most Senate Republicans are hoping for a quick acquittal, preferably before the State of the Union address in just over two weeks. But this could last for a month or so. It is hard to say before the rules are finalized.