Trump impeachment trial: Senate debates rules, procedures ahead of opening statements

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President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate begins in earnest this week after last week’s ceremonial beginning.

WASHINGTON (WFLA) – Before President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial begins in earnest, the Senate had to figure out what the rules and procedures would be.

The Senate convened at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday to begin its debate on what will happen in the trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a resolution stating that the seven House managers will have 24 hours to present its case over the course of three days. The president’s legal team will then have 24 hours over the course of three days to present the defense.

The initial resolution called for 24 hours for each side over the course of just two days but McConnell made last-minute handwritten changes shortly before the Senate convened.

After both the Senate Majority Leader and Senate Minority Leader made remarks on the floor, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone delivered a statement to the Senat. Cipollone is just one of eight members of the president’s legal team.

Lead impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff then took the floor and called on the Senate to vote to allow a fair trial. He and the other House impeachment managers are pushing for new witnesses and new evidence to be admitted to court as part of the trial.

By 1:30 a.m., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had already proposed 11 amendments to the rules resolution that were voted down by the Republican-led Senate.

The amendments proposed by Schumer called for subpoenas on documents from the White House, Department of Defense and other agencies as well as on witnesses like Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton. Most of the requested subpoenas sought new information on a July phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky.

The Senate voted along party lines to table all 11.

The now-infamous phone call between Trump and Zelensky – where President Trump asked the newly-elected Ukrainian president for a “favor” – is at the center of this impeachment. A whistleblower complaint about the call led to a House investigation late last year. It ended with President Trump being impeached for abuse of power for pushing Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden while withholding military aid from Ukraine. Trump was also impeached on a charge of obstruction of Congress.

The Senate then voted along party lines to approve McConnell’s resolution for the rules and procedures of the impeachment trial. Opening statements are expected to be delivered some time Wednesday.

This comes after the Senate received the articles of impeachment and took its first steps to become an impeachment court last week. The House officially signed and handed over the articles of impeachment against the president on Wednesday. The seven House impeachment managers then walked to the Senate Thursday afternoon to formally read the articles. Later in the day, Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in to preside over the trial and, in turn, swore in the senators serving as jurors.

President Trump issued his answer to the articles of impeachment over the weekend, calling them a “dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president.” The response states both articles against the president should be rejected.

The House impeachment managers filed what’s known as a replication on Monday, responding to the president’s answer and denying his defense.

“The American people entrusted President Trump with the extraordinary powers vested in his Office by the Constitution, powers which he swore a sacred Oath to use for the Nation’s benefit,” the replication states. “President Trump broke that promise. He used Presidential powers to pressure a vulnerable foreign partner to interfere in our elections for his own benefit.”

Also on Monday, President Trump’s legal team filed a trial memorandum calling the articles of impeachment “an affront to the Constitution and to our democratic institutions.” The 171-page memorandum argues against the impeachment and calls for immediate acquittal.

Nexstar is bringing you complete coverage of President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial as it begins. Our coverage Wednesday with Digital Anchor JB BiunnoPolitical Reporter Evan Donovan and DC Correspondent Jessi Turnure.

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