US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed a draft resolution on schedules of the upcoming impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the Republican-led upper chamber.
The Senate will debate and vote on the resolution on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported.
As expected, the four-page resolution does not require additional witnesses to be subpoenaed and does not allow House prosecutors to admit evidence into the Senate trial record until after the opening arguments are heard.
Instead, the resolution allows for a motion to be introduced to dismiss the impeachment charges by a simple majority vote.
According to the resolution, House impeachment managers will be allowed to begin their arguments at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
They will have 24 hours over two days to make their opening arguments when they begin to present their case against Trump on the Senate floor on Wednesday.
Similarly, the President’s legal team will also have two days to present their arguments.
The two-day rule means that presentations from both sides could go late into the night.
Following the presentations, Senators will have a chance to question both sides for a period of 16 hours.
Votes on calling witnesses or documents will not be allowed until after the question phase of the trial. Senators will be given four hours to debate witnesses and documents.
If the Senate sticks to the schedule and later votes down motions to subpoena witnesses or documents, the trial could be finished by the end of next week, said a The Hill news report.
“It’s clear Senator McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said in a statement on Monday.
“On something as important as impeachment, Senator McConnell’s resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace.
“McConnell’s resolution stipulates that key facts be delivered in the wee hours of the night simply because he doesn’t want the American people to hear them,” Schumer added, vowing to force votes on amendments.
Schumer and other Democrats have pressed for witnesses like former National Security Advisor John Bolton to be called to testify during the trial, while McConnell has argued against their demands.
Earlier on Monday, Trump’s lawyers argued that the President had done nothing wrong.
“The Senate should speedily reject these deficient articles of impeachment and acquit the president,” the legal team said in the President’s first comprehensive defense.
“The Articles of Impeachment now before the Senate are an affront to the Constitution and to our democratic institutions. The Articles themselves – and the rigged process that brought them here – are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.
The filing accuses House Democrats of crafting two “flimsy” articles of impeachment and using impeachment as “a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election”.
On January 18, House Democrats unveiled an 111-page outline of their legal case, underlying the central assertion that the president abused his office, obstructed Congress and should be removed.
“The evidence overwhelmingly establishes that he is guilty of both. The only remaining question is whether the members of the Senate will accept and carry out the responsibility placed on them by the Framers of our Constitution and their constitutional Oaths,” the brief compiled by seven House managers reads.
Trump was alleged to have pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into launching investigations that could politically benefit him. Furthermore, the White House allegedly tried to cover it up after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated an impeachment inquiry last September.
A whistleblower raised concerns about the White House’s interactions with Ukraine in an anonymous complaint last year.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, repeatedly calling the impeachment “a hoax”.
Under the US Constitution, the House has the sole power of impeachment, while the Senate can try all impeachments.
A conviction can only happen in the Senate and requires at least two-thirds of its members, or 67 senators, to vote in favor after a trial.
Currently, the Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two Independents.
Washington, Jan 21 (IANS)