WASHINGTON (AFP) – Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial lasted five weeks; Andrew Johnson’s went on for three months in 1868.
If the White House and Republicans have their way, United States (US) President Donald Trump’s trial will be over in two weeks, just in time for him to celebrate his expected acquittal in the February 4 State of the Union Address. But that depends on Republicans being able to block Democrat demands to subpoena documents and witnesses that could strengthen the case against the President.
So far, Republicans, led by Trump’s tough protector, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have the upper hand.
Trump’s trial for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress opened with a solemn, ceremonial reading of the charges in the Senate on Thursday, but the rules and schedule have not been set.
That will be decided tomorrow, with the 100 senators debating voting on procedures: the time given to opening arguments from the prosecution and defence, and questioning by the senators – the jury in the case.
Democrats are demanding that the Senate agree to subpoena crucial documents and four current and former senior White House officials to testify.
They include former national security advisor John Bolton and Trump acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Both are believed to have first-hand knowledge of what Trump is accused of: using his powers illicitly to pressure Ukraine to help his 2020 reelection campaign by investigating his potential Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
The White House blocked the impeachment investigation in the House of Representatives from accessing the witnesses and documents, and shows no sign of giving in now.
McConnell said the issue won’t be decided until after the trial’s initial arguments and questioning take place, and has made clear he doesn’t see the need anyway.
The White House signalled this week what it expects will happen: no witnesses.
“I think it’s extraordinarily unlikely it will be going beyond two weeks,” a White House official told reporters.
He said there is no need to go any longer.
“The President should be acquitted. We think it’s going to happen and going to happen readily.”
McConnell oversees a 53-47 Republican majority in the body, giving him all the power he needs to set the rules his way and deny the witnesses.