Both Parties Envision Short Impeachment Trial for Trump

Senators in both parties say they want a short impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump, even as Democratic and Republican leaders are still working out the terms for the unprecedented proceedings.

“This trial is not something that should take months or weeks -- days,” Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware told reporters after meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House Wednesday. “And then we can get back to putting this administration’s team in place” and tackling another pandemic relief package.

Both Parties Envision Short Impeachment Trial for Trump

Some Republicans also want a short trial. Senator Lindsey Graham said there’s no need to call witnesses or gather extensive evidence.

“There weren’t any in the House,” Graham, one of Trump’s closest allies in Congress, said. “If you’re alleging the speech incited violence, we can all go look to the speech.”

The Senate impeachment trial is set to get underway next week, with many of the procedural details yet to be determined. Along with questions about witnesses and evidence, Senate leaders haven’t decided how much time the House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense will get to present their cases.

The bipartisan desire for a short trial is much different than Trump’s first impeachment trial when Democrats criticized Republicans for not allowing witnesses.

Biden’s Agenda

The House managers, who will serve as the prosecutors, filed their brief for the case on Tuesday. Trump’s lawyers filed their initial response as well, with their fuller brief due Feb. 8.

David Schoen, one of Trump’s impeachment attorneys, said the defense has no idea how long the trial will last because that will depend on what the Senate rules for the trial allow.

But if Democrats call witnesses, the defense attorneys would want adequate time for discovery and cross-examination as well as have their own witnesses testify, he said.

“I think this kind of thing would prolong” the trial, Schoen said. “If they decide to call witnesses, then we definitely want to call witnesses.”

Both parties have incentives to make the trial quick. Rehashing Trump’s false rhetoric about the November election and his Jan. 6 speech to the crowd that later stormed the Capitol is politically fraught for Republicans who are attempting to recapture some of the suburban voters and independents who’ve drifted toward Democrats.

For Democrats, moving quickly with the trial will allow them to return to focusing on Biden’s agenda. Republicans have warned that they won’t agree to splitting the Senate’s work between the chamber’s regular work and the trial.

“A lot of the nominees by then will have confirmation hearings and a lot of them have been cleared,” Senator John Thune, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, said. “But I think once the trial starts, I would guess it’s probably unlikely.”

Senators Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, and Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, have suggested that the Senate forgo the trial entirely and instead focus their efforts on a resolution that would formally censure Trump. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has dismissed that idea and said the trial will go on.

Both Parties Envision Short Impeachment Trial for Trump

Collins was one of five Republicans who voted against an attempt by GOP Senator Rand Paul to declare the proceedings unconstitutional because Trump is now a private citizen. The others were Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

The vote on that motion, which failed 55-45, was an indication of how the final vote in the impeachment trial might go, with Democrats failing to find the 17 Republicans they need to convict the former president and potentially bar him from the presidency in the future.

Senate Duty

Despite the unlikelihood of a conviction, many Democrats argue that when the House impeaches, the Senate has a constitutional obligation to hold a trial.

“I think we have a duty to dispense with the Articles of Impeachment,” Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said. “I don’t think it needs to take that long, especially if the president’s case is going to be limited to the Constitution. I don’t think it’s a great idea to just skip over the accountability phase here for the president.”

Kaine told reporters said he and Collins may file their censure resolution after the trial is over.

“We have the idea on the table,” Kaine said. “It could well be that in a trial, the evidence will be so powerful and disturbing that Republicans might decide we’ve got to do something, and Democrats facing the prospect, which is likely of an acquittal, might decide we need to do something. And so the idea is out there on the table and it may become a useful idea down the road.”

Kaine said he and Collins are waiting to file the censure resolution until they have a better idea of whether it could pass.

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