Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says the Senate will begin debating an organizing resolution to start the Senate trial on Tuesday of next week.
The GOP leader said Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in senators as jurors this week, before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
McConnell said the House is expected to send over articles of impeachment on Wednesday and that the Senate will then have to go through a series of preliminary steps and housekeeping measures.
“We hope to achieve that by consent, which would set us up to begin the actual trial next Tuesday,” the GOP leader added.
McConnell clarified that a debate and vote on the organizing resolution, which will determine time limits for the House impeachment managers and the president’s defense team to make their opening arguments as well as for senators to ask questions, will happen next week.
The Senate will then notify the president’s defense team to appear and give the White House several days to respond.
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) says Trump’s legal team must be given at least two days’ notice, which means that opening arguments may not start until later next week.
McConnell on Tuesday reasserted that the Senate GOP conference is entirely unified behind an organizing resolution that would follow the precedent set by the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial.
“All 53 of us have reached an understanding very, very similar to the one that was achieved at the beginning of the Clinton impeachment trial 100 to nothing that would set up the arguments by the parties — the prosecutors and defense — and then the written question period,” he said.
After senators hear these opening arguments, “the more contentious issue of witnesses will be addressed by the Senate,” McConnell said.
On the charged subject of whether the Senate will vote to subpoena key witnesses, McConnell warned Tuesday that GOP senators may well call on former Vice President Joe Biden or his son Hunter Biden to testify about their Ukraine-related dealings if Democrats subpoena senior administration officials.
“We’ll be dealing with the witness issue at the appropriate time into the trial, and I think it’s certainly appropriate to point out that both sides would want to call witnesses that they wanted to hear from,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday when asked about GOP senators who want Hunter Biden to testify.
“When you get to that issue, I can’t imagine that only the witnesses that our Democratic colleagues would want to call would be called,” he said.
Asked if the Senate trial could be considered a fair proceeding if witnesses aren’t called, McConnell said that “51 senators will decide who to call.”
He criticized the House impeachment inquiry as unfair and incomplete.
“If you look at the House product, you really got to wonder what the definition of a fair trial is. They did almost nothing that you would expect the House to do in order to set up this case in order to be considered by the Senate,” he said.
McConnell also shot down calls to dismiss the articles of impeachment immediately, declaring there aren’t enough votes to avoid a trial.
“There is little or no sentiment in the Republican conference for a motion to dismiss,” he said, adding that “our members feel that we have an obligation to listen to the arguments.”