Here Are the Next Steps in Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial

Laura Litvan and Erik Wasson

(Bloomberg) -- The conclusion of Donald Trump’s defense brings the president’s impeachment trial closer to the only unknown variables -- senator questions and possible witness testimony -- moving past a process that has been tightly scripted thus far.

The House impeachment managers presented their case that the Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress, and the White House on Tuesday argued that the two articles fall short of the constitutional standard for impeachment.

Here are the next steps for the Senate trial:

Senators submit questions for prosecution and defense

The trial will continue Wednesday and Thursday with 16 hours of written questions from senators for the defense and prosecution. The trial’s presiding officer, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, will read the written queries out loud for lawyers of each side to respond on the Senate floor.

Leaders of both parties have requested suggestions for questions from their members so they can eliminate duplicates and ensure their party’s key issues are raised.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to alternate between questions from Republicans and Democrats. Roberts suggested that the House prosecution and Trump’s defense limit their answers to five minutes, following the precedent of Bill Clinton’s 1999 Senate trial.

The central issue: whether to depose new witnesses

Senator questions will be followed by the first chance for a vote on calling additional witnesses, probably on Friday. This is the moment that will determine whether the trial could wrap up this week or stretch into next month -- with possible surprises for both sides.

The trial’s rules allow four hours of debate, divided equally between the prosecution and the defense, on seeking documents and witness testimony. There would then be separate votes on whether to subpoena specific witnesses and documents.

Democrats need to persuade a simple majority of senators, which means at least four Republicans, to vote in favor of allowing the Senate to consider additional testimony.

There would also be an opportunity for senators to offer other motions, according to the Senate rules adopted for the trial.

That could include a motion from Trump’s defense team to dismiss the case, although GOP leaders have said Trump would be better served by a full trial ending in acquittal. If no witnesses are called, one of the motions could be to set a time and date for final deliberations and the vote on Trump’s guilt or innocence.

If a simple majority supports deposing additional witnesses, senators would have to vote on individual witnesses or groups of witnesses. Schumer said he plans to call former National Security Advisor John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, among other administration officials. Some Republicans have said that calling Trump aides to testify would mean they should also depose former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, to testify about their work in Ukraine.

Senate trial concludes with vote on two charges

Once the Senate hears from all approved witnesses, or if the motion to hear additional testimony falls short of a simple majority, the trial would move toward its conclusion. Senators would deliberate for an unspecified amount of time, then take a vote on each article of impeachment.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, and it would take 67 senators to convict Trump on either charge and remove him from office. Since that would require at least 20 Republicans to vote against the president, Trump is likely to be acquitted.

--With assistance from Steven T. Dennis.

To contact the reporters on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at;Erik Wasson in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at, Anna Edgerton, Laurie Asséo

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