Impeachment Schedule Explained: Why the Trial Could Last Weeks

One consideration for the managers? The patience of senators, some of whom already looked a bit bored on Tuesday — one even appeared to doze off — as they sat in silence through several hours of Mr. Schiff and his colleagues delivering dense, detailed arguments. The House leadership could decide, as the impeachment managers did during President Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, that taking every minute of the 24 hours afforded to them will not help their case.

If the House managers take all of their time, the White House lawyers — led by Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal lawyer — will have the chance to deliver their oral arguments defending the president starting on Saturday, Jan. 25. Senate rules that date back more than three decades hold that during impeachment, senators must meet six days a week, taking only Sunday off.

If the debate over rules was any guide, the president’s lawyers may take far less than their allotted 24 hours. But if they took it all, they would complete their presentation on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

Like the House managers, the White House lawyers will probably think about how long they want to keep senators in their seats. But they also have another audience: Mr. Trump, who has been itching to see a vigorous defense of him played out on television screens. That might encourage Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Sekulow to take a longer time outlining the case for his acquittal.

Under a clause inserted by Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, the rules allow Mr. Trump’s legal team to move after opening arguments to object to pieces of evidence the House impeachment investigators collected in their inquiry. If the president’s legal team did so, it is not clear whether Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. would rule on those objections or if the Senate would debate and vote on them, but the process could take some time.

After each side has presented its case, the trial rules give senators up to 16 hours to ask questions. But unlike during a normal Senate session, they are not allowed to speak. They must submit their questions in writing to Chief Justice Roberts, who is presiding over the trial. Under the rules of the Senate, the chief justice will decide which questions to ask, directing them to the managers or to the White House legal team.

That does not mean there will not be any grandstanding. When the chief justice reads a question aloud, he will indicate which senator submitted it. (Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, frequently boasts that during Mr. Clinton’s impeachment trial, she and Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, were the only two senators to submit a bipartisan question.)

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