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Trump impeachment trial opening arguments: what to expect



  • President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate will begin in earnest on Wednesday with opening arguments.
  • First up, the House of Representatives impeachment managers — who act as “prosecutors” — will present their case for impeachment and removal over several days.
  • Next, the president’s defense team will present a rebuttal — also expected to span several days — and argue for the two charges against Trump to be dismissed.
  • Overall, the trial is expected to go on for two weeks and start at 1 p.m. ET each day.
  • C-SPAN and TV networks will rely on the Senate’s live feed of the trial filmed with Congress’ own cameras.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will begin in earnest on Wednesday when both sides present opening arguments for and against Trump’s removal from office.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump last month on two charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Both charges relate to Trump’s efforts to strongarm the Ukrainian government into pursuing investigations that would be politically beneficial to him while withholding vital military aid and a White House meeting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky desperately sought.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi transmitted the two articles of impeachment to the Senate last week after almost a month of delay while Democrats and Republicans fought over the terms of Trump’s impeachment trial.

This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell drafted a resolution that calls for each side to be given 24 hours to argue their case over three days of trial. Senators will then be given 16 hours for questioning.

The resolution, if it passes on Tuesday evening, also allows for senators to vote on whether to call witnesses. If they vote to do so, the witnesses would be deposed behind closed doors first and then there would be a separate vote on whether to have to have them testify publicly.

Opening arguments will kick off on Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET.

C-SPAN and TV networks will rely on the Senate’s live feed of the trial filmed with Congress’ own cameras.

C-SPAN will air and livestream the trial at

The major cable news networks — ABC News, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN — will rely on the Senate feed to livestream the trial on their respective websites, which will be open to the public.

Insider will also embed a livestream of the trial here when it kicks off tomorrow.

Here’s what to expect

As with any other trial, Trump’s impeachment trial will consist of two sides. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Robert will preside over the trial.

The “prosecutors” will be lawmakers from the House of Representatives, known as impeachment managers, who will present the case against the president. The defense — a team of lawyers the president himself tapped — will then present a rebuttal.

Pelosi named seven lawmakers last week to serve as impeachment managers. They are:

  • Rep. Adam Schiff of California
  • Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York
  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California
  • Rep. Val Demings of Florida
  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York
  • Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado
  • Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas

On Wednesday, the impeachment managers, led by Schiff and Nadler, are expected to take several days to present their evidence against the president. This will include relevant testimony and documents that were obtained during the impeachment inquiry in the House last year.

But it’s also likely to include new details and documents that Lev Parnas, one of Trump’s Ukrainian associates intricately involved in the scheme, provided to the House Intelligence Committee this month.

Next up, Trump’s legal team will argue against impeachment and removal and move to have the charges tossed out. The defense’s arguments will also likely last several days. Here are the lawyers representing Trump in various capacities:

  • Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel. Cipollone is spearheading the defense team
  • Michael Purpura, Cipollone’s deputy in the White House counsel’s office
  • Patrick Philbin, another deputy in Cipollone’s office
  • Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer
  • Jane Raskin, Trump’s personal lawyer
  • Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater independent counsel 
  • Robert Ray, who succeeded Starr as independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation
  • Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard emeritus law professor and constitutional and criminal law scholar
  • Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida

The president’s legal team has argued that the charges against him — and the impeachment process as a whole — is “constitutionally invalid” and should be dismissed. They’re likely to drill down on this argument during their opening arguments.

Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly made contradictory or outright false statements about the impeachment process itself and the constitutionality of impeaching Trump

On Tuesday, for instance, as the Senate debated the rules of the trial, Sekulow said Democrats didn’t seek enough testimony from witnesses before charging the president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

He failed to mention that the reason Democrats were unable to obtain key testimony from senior officials was the White House’s directive that no one cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.

Sekulow also claimed the courts should step in to settle disputes between Trump and Congress over subpoenas and witness testimony. But the Justice Department has argued for months that the courts should not have a role in the matter because it would become politicized.

At another point, Sekulow said the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election found no evidence of obstruction of justice.

In fact, Mueller’s outlined more than 10 instances that fit the criteria for obstruction, but they declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” because of Justice Department guidelines that bar prosecutors from indicting a sitting president.

The Senate trial will go on for six days a week — senators get Sunday off — and is expected to begin at 1 p.m. ET every day to accommodate Justice Roberts’ schedule for the Supreme Court. The trial will likely last about two weeks but could go for longer if the Senate changes the rules of procedure.

Grace Panetta contributed to this report.

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