Following yesterday's unveiling of a compressed impeachment timeline that will give Democrats just two days to make their impeachment case, the media circus that will be President Trump's impeachment trial is about to begin.
According to Senate rules, the trial session will begin at 1 pm in Washington, when Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger is expected to reprise his role from last week and bring the Senate to order.
According to a report on what to expect from the first day of proceedings from Fox News, the first order of business will be swearing in Senator Jim Inhofe, who wasn't present for Chief Justice John Roberts' mass swearing-in of the Senate "jurors".
Roberts will be present to preside over the proceedings. He will be accompanied on the dias by two women, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough and Assistant Parliamentarian Leigh Hildebrand, who will likely be seen whispering in Roberts' ear and passing him messages as they help him oversee the trial.
After the opening formalities are finished, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will bring forward his resolution setting the rules for the trial.
McConnell’s proposal is formally known as a "motion" in Senate parlance. According to the chamber's rules, Pelosi's seven appointed impeachment managers and Trump's defense team will each have two hours to debate McConnell's rules, which, as we noted above, include the compressed timeline and a 'kill switch' to end proceedings if Dems get out of line, as well as any amendments proposed by Democrats.
“Leader McConnell’s process is deliberately designed to hide the truth from the Senate and from the American people, because he knows that the President’s wrongdoing is indefensible and demands removal," Pelosi wrote.
Of course, if the Dems succeed in calling witnesses to testify at the trial, Republicans can always threaten to subpoena Hunter Biden, whose employment at a shady Ukrainian gas company is at the center of the scandal that led to these proceedings.
Source: The Federalist Papers
Unless all 100 senators vote unanimously to end debate, each side will need to eat up all of the allotted time debating the rules.
Barring any unexpected developments, this should bring us to about 3:30
At this point, Minority leader Chuck Schumer will have a chance to propose some amendments.
McConnell’s approach creates a trial that is “rushed” and “rigged,” Schumer said in an interview.
“We can have votes before this awful resolution -- this resolution that I have called a national disgrace -- is enacted.”
If he does, the Dems will then get two hours to discuss and debate, as Fox explains.
The Senate has something known as “the amendment tree.” One could think of the McConnell proposal as the “trunk” of the tree. Schumer’s proposal is a “branch” of the tree. Schumer’s proposal, or proposals – so, sprigs growing off of the Schumer branch of the tree – all would represent possible amendments on which the Senate likely will have to debate and conduct a roll call vote on Tuesday evening.
What will Schumer propose? Different time allocations for the trial? Different times when they start or stop the arguments? Proposals on witnesses and documents?
By rule, Schumer’s proposal gets two hours of debate as well, with no senators participating in the debate - just the impeachment managers and the president’s counsel.
By the time all of the debates are finished, it should be roughly 5:30 or 6 pm. At this time, many suspect that the Senate will throw the public a curveball and motion to move into a closed session, kicking out all of the press and observers in the chamber. Whatever happens, Trump won't be present: He's in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum at Davos.
At some point later in the evening, the Senate will need to leave the closed session and take a vote on the rules. Though McConnell says he has the votes to pass his plan, it's still possible that one or two Schumer amendments might be attached to the rules.
In summary: It's going to be a long night in the Senate.
Anybody interested in following along with the proceedings can watch the live feed below: