What's ahead in the impeachment trial of President Trump

Grace Segers

President Trump's impeachment entered a new phase this week, kicking off on Thursday with a series of formalities and archaic traditions that marked the beginning of the Senate's role in the process. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the impeachment oath to 99 senators, officially commencing impeachment proceedings. And Roberts himself had been sworn in just moments before, after members of the House delivered two articles of impeachment against President Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — to the Senate.

Here's what's known so far about comes next:

Response to summons

The Senate has filed an official summons to Mr. Trump and to the impeachment managers for them to appear during the trial. The president has until 6:00 p.m. on Saturday to file his answer with the Secretary of the Senate, and the House of Representatives will have until noon on Monday to file its reply with the Secretary of the Senate. 

Filing of legal briefs

The House designated seven impeachment managers on Wednesday, who will prosecute the case against Mr. Trump in the Senate trial. Although the Senate is in recess, the impeachment managers and Mr. Trump's attorneys will be working over the long holiday weekend to prepare legal briefs for use in the trial.

Saturday, January 18, 5 p.m.: House impeachment managers' trial brief is due. 

Monday, January 20, 12 p.m.: Trial brief by President Trump's lawyers is due. 

Tuesday, January 21, 12 p.m.: House impeachment managers' rebuttal brief is due, should they wish to file one.

Senate impeachment rules

Tuesday, January 21, 12:30 p.m.: The Senate reconvenes and is expected to debate an organizing resolution to designate the rules for the trial, including the duration of the arguments. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will likely try to force a vote requiring the Senate to call witnesses, but Republicans have so far expressed unity in delaying decisions on witnesses until later in the trial.

Opening arguments

Tuesday, January 21: After the vote on the impeachment rules, the House managers and president's legal team will make their opening arguments. The senators are required to sit silently, without their electronic devices. And after the arguments, if they have questions, they may submit them in writing. Roberts will read each question aloud, and the legal team addressed in the question will answer.

Will there be witnesses?

The decision on whether witnesses would be called is likely not going to be made until after the opening arguments. McConnell wants to organize the trial like that of President Clinton, when votes on witnesses took place after the impeachment managers and the president's lawyers presented their cases. Democrats would like to hear from at least four present or former administration officials who were kept from testifying in the House impeachment inquiry by the White House.

At least four Republican senators have expressed interest in calling witnesses in the trial, but it's unclear when they would want witnesses to be brought before the Senate.

The White House announced the president's full legal team on Friday night. It will be led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Mr. Trump's personal lawyer Jason Sekulow, and will also include former independent counsel Ken Starr, former Harvard University professor Alan Dershowitz, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, private counsel Jane Raskin, Eric D. Herschmann, and Robert Ray. 

John Nolen contributed to this report

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