The House has finally transmitted its articles of impeachment to the Senate so the trial could get underway, but thanks to Nancy Pelosi’s delays, the timeline has shifted such that the trial may have a chaotic impact on several major upcoming events.
Though anything is possible, several recent estimates predict the Senate impeachment trial will last approximately four to six weeks, which, according to Breitbart, means that the trial will likely still be ongoing when President Donald Trump gives the State of the Union address on Feb. 4.
Also likely to be impacted by the trial are the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3 and New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11, and perhaps even Congress’ scheduled President’s Day recess on Feb. 15. In other words, all parties involved in the charade — from the president to the senators who are Democrat presidential candidates to Congress as a whole — will be affected.
A major disruption
The trial is expected to be intense, The Hill reported on Thursday. All senators will be required to participate in the trial that will likely be held six days per week until it is finished. Those senators will also be required to remain quiet and in their seats throughout and will not be allowed to possess electronic devices while in session.
The restrictions present a big problem for the Democrat senators running for president — especially Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), but also Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and even Michael Bennet (D-CO) — as it will keep them largely confined to Washington D.C. instead of on the campaign trail in Iowa and New Hampshire in the crucial final days before votes are cast.
Sanders has admitted that he’s concerned about how the trial will impact his campaign, while Trump on Friday accused Democrats of intentionally using impeachment to hurt Sanders in the primary in favor of Joe Biden.
….Joe Biden, and Bernie is shut out again. Very unfair, but that’s the way the Democrats play the game. Anyway, it’s a lot of fun to watch!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2020
Meanwhile, all this disruption will almost certainly be for naught. With what we know now, it’s highly unlikely that the trial will end in a conviction for President Trump, which would require no less than 20 Republican senators to cross the aisle and join all 47 Democrats to reach the 67 votes necessary to remove the president from office.
Likely timeline of trial
Politico offered up an interesting breakdown of what to expect based on the 1999 trial of former President Bill Clinton, which lasted five weeks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said Trump’s trial will largely mirror Clinton’s.
Once the trial gets underway on Tuesday, both the House managers and Trump’s defense team will get up to 24 hours to present their opening arguments, which altogether could last up to one week. Following that, all senators will be allowed to submit written questions for both sides — which will likely be read by Chief Justice John Roberts — in a process that could add several more days to the timeline.
Then the unknown factor kicks in — at that point, there will likely be an opportunity for senators to submit and debate motions over several days, such as whether to dismiss the trial or to call for additional witnesses. If witnesses are called, roughly another week, if not two, could be added to the timeline.
Once all of that has been completed there will be closing arguments from both sides, potentially several days of deliberations among the senators serving as jurors, and finally a vote to acquit or convict, all of which could consume yet another week on the calendar. Best guesses have the trial ending in late February, though it is conceivable that it could end by mid-February or even stretch into early March.
As a final note, Politico pointed out that Clinton actually delivered his State of the Union address on Jan. 19, 1999, partway through the trial and as his team was in the middle of arguing his defense. In all likelihood, Trump’s trial will still be ongoing when his State of the Union address is scheduled to be delivered on Feb. 4, and it remains to be seen if he will stick with that date or postpone the address until after the trial has concluded.