Impeachment trials are a rarity in the great American experiment: President Donald Trump’s is only the third to take place in over 200 years of US history. If you want to witness this historic event yourself, get ready to hunker down and check your local listings this week—especially given that Mitch, McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has both put it on a fast track and guaranteed much of the action will happen well after most reasonable bedtimes. While it’s unclear how much of the proceedings the major broadcast and news networks will show, you’ve got no shortage of ways to watch.
While Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swore in the senators last week, the historic trial gets underway in earnest at 1 pm Eastern time today, when McConnell will introduce a resolution that governs how the trial will proceed. You can read it in full below. Two hours have been allotted for debate, which is likely to be rancorous given that McConnell has opted to take the express route. Because senators themselves aren’t allowed to speak during the trial, arguments will be made by the impeachment managers from the House of Representatives, who function like prosecutors, and Trump’s legal team. (Truly, what’s an impeachment these days without Ken Starr?)
Following that initial debate, Senate minority leader Charles Schumer will offer amendments suggesting that perhaps the trial would benefit from evidence and witness testimony. Republicans are not expected to agree; the ensuing debate could take up to two hours longer. After those arguments conclude, the Senate will vote on the McConnell resolution; a simple majority will push it through.
A caution to procedural argumentation fans: While you can expect the major news networks—Mid American Herald, MSNBC, Fox, and so on—to carry decent chunks of the trial today and onward, there are some limitations at play. First, if the senators want to engage in debate themselves, which they likely will at this phase in particular, those deliberations happen in private. No TV cameras, no reporters, no anything. Even the parts you’re supposed to have access too seem likely to be limited, as the Senate has cracked down on everything from where reporters can sit to who controls the cameras in the chamber. Your best shot at a completist stream is going to be C-SPAN 2, which will show the action on the Senate floor in full. You can watch the embedded stream below.
After the rules of the trial are confirmed, expect things to pick up a little. Under McConnell’s proposed structure, House impeachment managers will have 24 hours to make their case, divided into two 12-hour chunks, starting at 1 pm Eastern each day. Which, yes, means that if they max out their time they’ll be talking well past midnight. Trump’s legal team will then get 24 hours as well, parceled out in the same manner. If this seems rushed, it is, at least compared with President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999. Opening arguments then were still given 24 hours, but they could spread that out as they pleased, rather than squeeze it into two marathon sessions.
Since the trial will run Monday through Saturday, the arguments phase should wrap up sometime in the earliest hours of Sunday night. After that, senators will have 16 hours to ask questions, which Chief Justice Roberts will read on their behalf. (Remember, the jury can’t talk.) Then, there are four hours of arguments about whether to subpoena witnesses or documents. Which, yes, Schumer will have already likely attempted to force, but several GOP senators have said they want to wait until after opening arguments to make that call, and that’s what McConnell’s resolution calls for, so it’ll be moot until then (and frankly, probably moot after).
The trial will end, as they typically do, with closing arguments and deliberations of indeterminate length. How long the entire proceeding will last remains anyone’s guess. If four Republican senators decide that they actually want to hear evidence and question witnesses after all, it could get drawn out for several weeks. If they don’t, McConnell’s timeline suggests that he could get this thing wrapped up in a couple of weeks.
So, how do you watch the Trump impeachment trial? With great trepidation! But otherwise try your news outlet of choice or their websites—or CSPAN-2 for guaranteed coverage—from 1 pm ET onward, Monday through Saturday, for as long as you and/or democracy can stand it.
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