Additional controversy already surrounds the impeachment trial over the lack of witnesses.
Monday, Jan. 20, the impeachment trial of Donald Trump began in the United States Senate. After over a month of withholding the articles of impeachment, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent over the charges and designated seven impeachment managers.
These seven representatives — Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Cal), Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) and Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) — will effectively act as prosecuting attorneys for the House of Representatives.
President Trump’s defense team includes Former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, Clinton Prosecutor Ken Starr, Former Special Counsel Robert Ray, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Personal Defense Attorney Jay Sekulow and Former Attorney General Pam Bondi. This team of lawyers will act in Trump’s defense throughout the duration of the trial.
The impeachment trial begins with immediate controversy, as it was unclear as to whether or not the Senate would compel certain witnesses subpoenaed by the House to testify. The president expressly instructed these witnesses — such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Former National Security Advisor John Bolton and other high-ranking officials for the Trump administration — not to testify, spawning the second charge against him in the in the impeachment inquiry: obstruction of Congress.
Before the trial could officially begin, the Senate body must debate and vote to confirm the rules that will govern the trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) presented a resolution that somewhat mimicked the rules of President Clinton’s impeachment trial; however, one glaring distinction was the lack of witnesses. Senate Democrats sought to amend the resolution in favor of including witnesses, however, were unsuccessful in all 11 attempts as the votes fell almost entirely along party lines.
The accepted rules allowed for up to 24 hours for each side to present their case over three days. After the House managers had exhausted their allotted time on Jan. 24, Trump’s defense began their case and are expected to present their most aggressive arguments in closing on Jan. 27. Following the conclusion of the White House’s case, Senators will be given 16 hours to question each side.
After allowing for questions, the Senate Majority Leader will decide which vote will take place next: one final vote deciding whether witnesses will be called, or the final votes on whether to acquit the President. At present, it is unclear whether McConnell and Senate Republicans will allow witnesses in the trial at all.
Overall, the result of the impeachment trial has been treated as a foregone conclusion. The logic for this has been bolstered throughout the last week as Senators were seen ignoring the proceedings and wandering around the Capitol — one Republican Senator, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, was seen on Fox News, giving an interview just outside the chamber while the trial was in session.
According to a CNN poll released the night before the trial began, 51 percent of Americans think President Trump should be removed from office. An additional poll found that 69 percent of Americans believe that the trial should include witnesses to key events. After a series of incidents that appear to communicate the apathy of Senate Republicans towards the trial, it still appears as though President Trump will be acquitted along party lines.