What to Watch in the Impeachment Trial on Wednesday

What to Watch in the Impeachment Trial on Wednesday

WASHINGTON — After a marathon debate about how to conduct the impeachment trial, the Senate will formally move into the oral arguments phase of the proceeding on Wednesday as the House managers open their case to convict President Trump and remove him from office.

The managers will present their two articles of impeachment charging Mr. Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as they begin what will be as much as 24 hours of opening arguments over three days. With no guarantee of being able to call witnesses later, these three days may be the main opportunity for the prosecution.

What we’re expecting to see: Each of the seven House managers, led by Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, will present different elements of the case in a series of speeches. They will have a chance to make their points without being challenged by either senators or the White House lawyers, who will get their opportunity to make arguments later.

When we’re likely to see it: The trial convenes at 1 p.m. Eastern and will last through the afternoon and into the evening. If the managers divide their total of 24 allotted hours evenly over three days, the arguments could go until 9 p.m. or later depending on breaks. The White House could pre-empt the arguments with a motion to dismiss on Wednesday morning, but allies said it was unlikely to do so because it does not have enough votes.

How to follow it: The New York Times’s congressional team will be following the developments on Capitol Hill and reporters covering the White House will get the latest from Mr. Trump’s defense team. Visit nytimes.com for coverage throughout the day.

Even though these will be the official opening arguments, many of the points that will be heard on Wednesday may feel familiar to anyone who hung through Tuesday’s session, which dragged on for nearly 13 hours into the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

In theory, the Tuesday debate was about process — will witnesses and documents be sought or not? — but both sides used the discussion to describe the facts and offer their interpretations of what they meant. The challenge for the managers on Wednesday, therefore, will be to introduce their case again in a coherent and compelling way that will capture the attention of 100 senators sitting muzzled at their desks.

The advantage for the managers is that they will have the microphone to themselves, at least on the floor. The White House lawyers will not be able to challenge the managers’ assertions but will have to wait for their turn to start, most likely on Saturday. Likewise, the senators, who are bound by a vow of silence, will not get their chance to weigh in until probably next Wednesday, when they will be able to submit questions in writing through Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who is presiding over the trial.

The only liquids allowed on the Senate floor during the trial are water and milk, but Chief Justice Roberts could be forgiven for wishing for a good jolt of coffee.

After presiding over the Senate trial until nearly 2 a.m., the chief justice will have to head to his day job later Wednesday, presiding over oral arguments at the Supreme Court at 10 a.m. before returning to the Senate chamber for another session starting at 1 p.m.

The arguments at the Supreme Court focus on a different issue than the one at stake on the Senate floor but one that has been hotly disputed nonetheless. The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, focuses on a since-disbanded voucher program in Montana that provided tax breaks for donors to scholarships for private schools, including religious schools.

After running the oral arguments at the court in the morning, the chief justice will resume his temporary assignment as presiding officer at the Senate proceeding, a role that so far has been essentially ministerial without requiring him to make any substantive decisions.

The defendant will have his say on Wednesday, not from the courtroom, but from television cameras half a world away.

Mr. Trump, who left the country to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, rather than stick around for the trial, plans to speak out in a couple of television interviews before heading back to Washington later in the day.

The president is scheduled to appear on CNBC and Fox News in interviews that will air early morning Washington time and will almost surely solicit his views of what he has heard from the House managers about his efforts to pressure Ukraine for help against his domestic rivals. He spent Tuesday largely avoiding much mention of the trial, focusing instead on his economic record.

After the interviews and meetings with chief executives and the presidents of Iraq and the Kurdistan regional government, Mr. Trump is scheduled to leave Switzerland on Air Force One at 7:20 a.m. Washington time, landing back at Joint Base Andrews outside the nation’s capital around 4:50 p.m., most likely when House managers are about halfway through their first day of arguments against him.


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