McConnell Releases Rules for Senate Impeachment Trial, Allows Vote on Witnesses

By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly is a senior reporter for the Epoch Times. She covers U.S. news and world news. Contact her at
January 21, 2020Updated: January 21, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released a resolution outlining his proposed rules for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump late Monday.

According to the resolution (pdf), the trial is set to start in earnest on Wednesday at 1 p.m., with the Senate to vote on whether to admit materials from the House and new evidence only after opening arguments from both sides.

Managers representing the Democrat-majority House and the president’s defense team will have until Wednesday 9 a.m. to file any motions, and until 11 a.m. to file responses to any motions allowed under impeachment rules.

However, “motions to subpoena witnesses or documents or any other evidentary motions” will not be allowed for consideration until after the first part of the trial in which both sides will have a total of 24 hours spread across a maximum of two days to present their opening arguments regarding impeachment.

Senators will then have 16 hours to ask questions followed by 2 hours for each side to make closing arguments.

McConnell’s resolution says the Senate will then vote—independent of any intervention, motion, or amendment—on whether to allow any further motions for subpoenaing witnesses, documents or further evidence, and proceed to review such witnesses or evidence if granted.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will be presiding over the trial.

John G. Roberts
This Nov. 30, 2018, file photo shows Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, as he sits with fellow Supreme Court justices for a group portrait at the Supreme Court Building in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

The resolution also stated that if the Senate agrees to review evidence—including that based on publicly available materials from the record of the House that are in accordance to House Resolution 660—”witnesses shall first be deposed and the Senate shall decide after deposition which witnesses shall testify, pursuant to the impeachment rules.”

“No testimony shall be admissible in the Senate unless the parties have had an opportunity to depose such witnesses,” the resolution states. “At the conclusion of the deliberations by the Senate, the Senate shall vote on each article of impeachment.”

Democrats want four witnesses, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. They have also released new evidence that they want “included as part of the official record that will be transmitted to the Senate along with the Articles of Impeachment.” Republicans want other witnesses, including former vice president and presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Schumer Calls ‘Cover Up’

Following the release of the resolution, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded by saying he would do all he can to ensure that “amendments” are made to McConnell’s rules.

“As soon as Senator McConnell offers this resolution, I will be offering amendments to address the many flaws in this deeply unfair proposal and to subpoena the witnesses and documents we have requested,” Schumer said in a statement.

Similarly, drawing on the precedent set in President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial (pdf), during which both sides were also given 24 hours to make their arguments but were not limited to two days, Schumer accused McConnell of “rushing the trial through” and orchestrating a “cover up.”

“McConnell’s resolution stipulates that key facts be delivered in the wee hours of the night simply because he doesn’t want the American people to hear them,” he said.

Trump earlier in the day wrote on Twitter: “They didn’t want John Bolton and others in the House. They were in too much of a rush. Now they want them all in the Senate. Not supposed to be that way! … Cryin’ Chuck Schumer is now asking for ‘fairness’, when he and the Democrat House members worked together to make sure I got ZERO fairness in the House. So, what else is new?”

Senate to Vote

McConnell’s resolution is expected to face a vote as early as Tuesday and needs a majority vote (51) to pass.

Schumer and any other senators can propose amendments to the rules, which would then require 51 votes to be adopted into the resolution. Republicans control the Senate with a 53-47 majority.

The trial in the majority-Republican Senate formally began on Jan. 16 when senators were sworn in as jurors by Chief Justice Roberts.

Trump was formally charged on Dec. 18 by the Democrat-majority House on two articles of impeachment (pdf)—abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. No House Republicans voted in favor of the articles, and a small number of Democrats broke with their party to vote against one or both articles. Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard voted present in protest of the House-led effort, which she called a “partisan endeavor.”

The charges from the House say that Trump abused his office by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “look into” possible corruption by the Bidens, noting that Joe Biden is a Democratic presidential contender. They’ve sought to connect a hold placed on congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine to the request, arguing Trump was using it to pressure Ukraine.

The House also argues that Trump blocked Congress from investigating the allegations against him by declining to allow some current and former advisers to testify to the House.

Trump’s legal team asserted that neither charge amounted to a crime or an impeachable offense, and that the president was within his rights to make decisions about foreign policy and what information to give Congress. They also argue that the House pursued a flawed and one-sided process before voting in favor of the two articles of impeachment.

According to their legal brief, the case against the president is frivolous and a “dangerous perversion of the Constitution.”

His legal team includes Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and former independent counsel Ken Starr. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, former federal prosecutor Robert Ray, and Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow are also on the team.

The House will be represented by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Judiciary Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.).

Trump, who will be in Davos, Switzerland, during part of the trial, has repeatedly said he didn’t do anything wrong. He earlier agreed with Gabbard that House Democrats are playing politics.

A two-thirds supermajority (67 votes) is required to convict an impeached president and remove them from office.

About 20 Republicans would have to break with their party and join the Democratic minority to achieve a supermajority. Meanwhile, a simple majority (51 votes) is required to dismiss the impeachment charges against Trump.

No president has ever been removed as a direct result of impeachment. Richard Nixon resigned before he could be removed. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached by the House but not convicted in the Senate.

Zachary Stieber and Reuters contributed to this report.