A GOP rules plan for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump unveiled by Senate Republicans on Monday could pave the way for the trial to be finished in as little as two weeks, as the plan envisions squeezing 48 hours of opening arguments into just four days, with the option of voting on the impeachment articles without any additional witnesses or evidence.
"Just because the House proceedings were a circus that doesn’t mean the Senate’s trial needs to be," said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who fully endorsed the proposal from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
While GOP Senators said the plan would be modeled on a bipartisan rules deal at the start of the Clinton impeachment trial, there were two notable differences from 21 years ago, governing opening arguments, and the submission of evidence.
While each side would get 24 hours to make their opening arguments, this GOP plan would force that time to be used in just two days - raising the specter of an impeachment trial which could stretch well into the night because of those time constraints.
Another change would require an affirmative vote by the Senate to simply put the investigatory materials from the House into the trial record, something which was done automatically in the Clinton impeachment trial.
Also, even if extra witnesses were approved by Senators, it would not guarantee their testimony on the Senate floor, as there would have to be a vote after the depositions on whether the witness would testify publicly.
GOP impeachment trial rules plan would allow 24 hours of opening arguments for each side - which must be used over two days, a change from the Clinton impeachment trial. pic.twitter.com/eFabFsU0Ve— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) January 20, 2020
Also from the GOP rules - there is no guarantee that the evidence gathered by the House will be put before the Senate. There must be a Senate *vote* to admit that evidence into the record. pic.twitter.com/9s3W4nCgqo— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) January 20, 2020
With a Tuesday debate set on the rules, Republicans also made clear they would not support any move to add witnesses until after opening arguments have been completed.
"If attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts," said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT).
Meanwhile, Democrats roundly denounced the GOP rules details.
"The proposal that Majority Leader McConnell just released looks more like a cover up than a fair trial," said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).
"Mitch McConnell doesn't want a fair trial, he wants a fast trial," said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
"It's all about the cover up," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). "These are not the Clinton rules."
Let’s be 100% clear - the only reason to restrict the impeachment managers to 24 hours over 2 days is to make sure the evidence is presented in the dead of the night, when no one is watching.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 21, 2020
It’s not about finding the truth or honoring our duty.
It’s all about the coverup.
His proposed rules would rush the presentation of the case, erect barriers to witnesses & even delay admission of evidence already in the record. I hope some of my GOP colleagues will see how unfair this proposal is & vote with Democrats tomorrow to revise these unworkable rules.— Senator Chris Coons (@ChrisCoons) January 21, 2020
McConnell’s resolution is not one for a fair and full trial—it’s one to enforce a cover-up. They’re trying to hide the evidence in the dead of night & block witnesses who know what happened.— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) January 21, 2020
"There’s nothing in this resolution that requires hearing witnesses or admitting evidence — which is unlike any trial I’ve ever seen," said Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN).
"Under this resolution, Senator McConnell is saying he doesn’t want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn’t want to hear any new evidence," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, who promised to offer amendments to the plan on Tuesday afternoon.
Debate and votes on the rules resolution will start on Tuesday afternoon - and could turn into an extended battle on the floor of the U.S. Senate.