The Senate impeachment trial of President Trump — only the third impeachment trial is US history — kicks off in earnest today.
Here are eight key things to watch today
- Things will change: We have a basic outline of how we think the trial will go, but it's clear things will change as the trial progresses. For instance, much or all of Tuesday could be taken up by debate between the House managers and the defense team over how the trial will progress.
- There will be late nights... There is a clear desire by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to get this thing done. According to a draft of rules senators could vote on Tuesday, McConnell would give each side only two days to make its case. Since each side gets 24 hours, this first week in particular could go very late if the impeachment managers or Trump's team use all of that time, perhaps until 1 a.m. ET.
- ...Which means there will be relative speediness: This also means the trial could go very quickly. Trump wants it wrapped up before he delivers the State of the Union address February 4.
- There could be a fight over witnesses: Democrats want witnesses at this impeachment trial. Most Republicans do not. The question now is whether the four Republicans needed to give Democrats a majority will agree to hear new information.
- Expect some parliamentary squabbling: We have some idea what to expect, but the rules have not been set. The rules of the trial have not been released by McConnell nor have they seen a vote. The details of those rules, and whether McConnell can get a majority of 51 senators on board with them, will be very important.
- Why this could all be "murky squared": CNN hired former Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin to help decode the impeachment trial. Asked if, under the rules, Democrats can force the Senate to hear witnesses, he said, "Like so much about Senate procedure the answer is a little murky. Senate procedure is murky generally and Senate procedure with respect to impeachment trials is murky squared." Read more about the rules.
- Look out for tight media control: Reporters on Capitol Hill have complained that portions of the building normally open to them have been shut. In addition, the Senate controls cameras inside the chamber, so it will be able to control the angles seen during the trial. Only the person talking will be pictured, for instance.
- We could see some closed doors: There's expected to be at least one closed session today and possibly more, which will feel very strange, but is needed, according to Senate leaders, because senators aren't allowed to speak during the trial (among other rules like not using their phones and standing when they vote) and they'll have to debate at times about how to proceed. But we won't know the deliberations going on as a result.