With former President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial increasingly looking like it will end in acquittal, many Democrats are hoping for a swift trial as short as “a matter of days” – and are ready to move on to key items of President Joe Biden’s agenda, starting with delivering a $1.9 trillion Covid relief package.
“I think that there should be a trial and it can be relatively expeditious, a matter of days, not weeks,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto Thursday.
Democrats are sensitive to ensuring Trump has a full trial with clear evidence. But they worry a long trial will compete for floor time with Biden’s long list of legislative priorities – especially his large Covid relief package – and getting his Cabinet and other top government officials confirmed.
Democrats are also arguing that because there is only one article of impeachment – incitement of insurrection – and lawmakers all witnessed the events firsthand, the proceedings should be able to move quickly.
“I don’t think, based upon the limited nature of the impeachment article, that it should take anywhere near the last impeachment (trial),” New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez said, referring to the 2020 trial that lasted nearly three weeks.
“This is a much less complicated set of facts than when we were dealing with Ukraine,” added Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, referring to Trump’s first Senate impeachment trial where he was charged with two articles of impeachment after an investigation into his pressure on Ukrainian officials to investigate his political rival at the time, Biden.
It’s not yet clear how long Trump’s impeachment trial will last – and the length will depend, in part, on how long House impeachment managers take to present their case, how long Trump’s defense team takes to respond, and when senators are ready to vote on a final judgment.
“The House has to make a decision about how much time it’s gonna take and what evidence it wants to put forward” and Trump’s legal team “has to get at least equal time, and probably more so that the fairness of the proceeding’s assured,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, told reporters on Wednesday.
Now that Democrats have won the presidency, House and Senate, they’re anxious to start moving on Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief legislation after settling for a smaller stimulus package in December, which Democratic leaders said was just a start.
“To do a trial knowing you’ll get 55 votes at the max seems to me to be not the right prioritization of our time right now. Obviously we do a trial, maybe we can do it fast, but my top priority is Covid relief… and getting the Biden Cabinet approved,” Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said.
“I would hope that we deal with that as quickly as possible to start addressing the needs of working families,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, said on Wednesday.
Sen. Brian Schatz, Democrat from Hawaii, said Thursday there’s “no reason” Trump’s trial should take weeks when “we don’t even have a full complement of Biden Cabinet nominees who have been confirmed.”
Many Democrats also argue since the senators themselves were witnesses to the attack – there may not be a need to drag out the trial longer than a few days or a week.
Whitehouse also speculated Wednesday that perhaps it’ll be in Trump’s best interest, as well, to have a quick trial. “It may very well be perceived by Trump’s team and to be in his interest to minimize, minimize, minimize, rather than draw him out and continue the emphasis on this sort of episode,” the Rhode Island Democrat added.
Many Democrats and Republicans alike have pointed to the vote on GOP Sen. Rand Paul’s point of order to vote on the constitutionality of Trump’s impeachment trial on Tuesday as an indicator for how the trial’s final vote will likely land. Only five Republicans joined all Democrats to kill the Kentucky Republican’s motion, and there is no sense that anywhere close to 17 Republicans would vote to convict the former President.
Ted Barrett, Lauren Fox and Clare Foran contributed to this report.