Impeachment Trial 101

Courtney Green, Emily Echevarria, and Alex Bowman, Spinnaker News Team

We have now seen the formal announcement and House vote on the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Though only the fourth impeachment proceedings to take place, the road map has been laid out.

On Wednesday, January 22, the opening arguments in the Senate trial against President Trump began. Each side will have 24 hours to present their opening arguments over a period of 3 days. The House of Representatives has designated impeachment managers to prosecute the president for the articles approved by the House in December, while President Trump will be defended by a team of White House and private lawyers. 

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow, left, gestures while standing with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, right, while arriving at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. The U.S. Senate plunges into President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial with Republicans abruptly abandoning plans to cram opening arguments into two days but solidly rejecting for now Democratic demands for more witnesses to expose what they deem Trump’s “trifecta” of offenses. Trump himself claims he wants top aides to testify, but qualified that by suggesting there were “national security” concerns to allowing their testimony. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

After the initial 3 days of arguments, senators, who act as jurors in the trial, may submit written questions for both sides to Chief Justice John Roberts, who presides over the trial. Roberts will read the questions out loud for the house managers and the defense to respond. 

After the initial questioning, senators will vote on whether to end the impeachment trial or to subpoena witnesses. Before this scheduled vote, however, senators can call for a vote to outright dismiss the trial. They can move to end it at any time.

If senators vote to not allow further witnesses, a vote on whether to convict President Trump of the offenses outlined by the House of Representatives will be held, which will end in either a conviction or acquittal. 4 Republican senators would need to vote across party lines in order for new witnesses to be called. 

If the senators do decide to call on witnesses, it could extend the impeachment proceedings. If his defense chooses to call witnesses forward, this would bring about new evidence not permitted in the House trial since President Trump called for White House officials to not testify during the House of Representatives trial. Some senators have even suggested that the infamous whistleblower would be called to testify. 

If new witnesses are called, they would testify before both the House managers and Trump’s defense team would make closing arguments. After further deliberation, the Senate would take its vote on whether to convict or acquit Trump. 

A two-thirds vote, which equates to 67 senators, would need to be reached in order to remove President Trump from office. The point of the trial is to convince Republican senators with evidence, witnesses, and the pressure of public opinion to vote to convict President Donald Trump and remove him from office.

At this juncture, the vote is not expected to pass and President Trump is expected to remain Commander-in-Chief. On the off-chance the final vote does not go in his favor, Vice President Mike Pence would become President of the United States. If he is convicted in the Senate, he would be the first President to ever be fully removed by the impeachment and conviction process.

The process will take, at the shortest, two to three weeks, and will potentially overlap with the President’s State of the Union Address. 


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