What's next in Trump's impeachment trial

Posted at 7:01 PM, Jan 28, 2020

President Donald Trump’s legal team concluded its opening arguments on Tuesday after only 10 of the 24 hours it was allotted to come to the president’s defense.

The team representing Trump began its defense on Saturday, and after taking a day off on Sunday, used a full day of presentations on Monday before concluding on Tuesday.

Trump’s legal team’s arguments came after the prosecution from the House of Representatives used nearly all of its 24 hours over three days to present its side as to why Trump should be removed from office.

What will happen on Wednesday and Thursday

Senators will file questions to the two legal teams, starting on Wednesday. For a total of 16 hours, eight hours per day, the two legal teams will entertain questions from senators.

The questions will be filed to Chief Justice John Roberts and alternated between Democratic and Republican senators.

Roberts told both the House managers and Trump’s defense to try to keep responses to questions to five minutes, following precedent from the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.

A dramatic Friday on tap

Friday could be not only a long day for the Senate, but perhaps one of the most dramatic in the history of the body.

Both parties in the Senate will be able to motion to admit evidence and call for witnesses. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the task of keeping 50 of his 53 senators together to block witnesses from testifying.

But there is some indication that could be a challenge.

What has added to the uncertainty is a report from the New York Times on Sunday, which says that former National Security Adviser John Bolton was directly told by Trump that military aid for Ukraine would be held until Ukraine agreed to investigate Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Biden has been leading most polls in the upcoming Democratic primary, and polls recently conducted by ABC News as well as Fox News indicate Biden could be the Democrats’ best candidate to defeat Trump in November.

But Trump has maintained that then Vice President Biden’s execution of the United States’ policy to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor should be investigated given that his son worked for a Ukrainian oil and gas company.

Several Republican senators, including Utah’s Mitt Romney and Maine’s Susan Collins, have suggested a desire to call Bolton as a witness. Bolton has recently said that he would agree to testify before the Senate if subpoenaed. Bolton previously said that he would have challenged a subpoena by the House.

If two more senators potentially join Romney and Collins, the timeline for the impeachment trial becomes murky.

What happens if Bolton is called

The impeachment trial could drag well into February. It would be unclear how soon Bolton would be able to testify.

It also opens up the possibility other witnesses are called, including Joe and Hunter Biden.

What happens if Bolton is not called

It could mean that McConnell and Trump are able to call for an acquittal on Friday or Saturday, and the matter will come to an end.

Bottom line

Without knowing which way several swing Republicans will vote on calling witnesses, it is impossible to say whether the impeachment trial will come to an end later this week, or if it drags well into February.

Even with additional witnesses who may or may not provide damning testimony against the president, the likelihood of 67 out of 100 senators agreeing to remove Trump seems unlikely.