Dec 16, 2019

Inside the McConnell-Trump impeachment trial playbook

Trump stands with McConnell during a campaign rally Lexington, Kentucky, Nov. 4. Photo: Bryan Woolston/Getty Images)

The Senate trial is poised to be short — perhaps two weeks — and to involve no new witnesses, and Trump has largely come around on this plan, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

Why it matters: That would represent a significant evolution in the president’s posture, after a flurry of private and public urging by McConnell and Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham. Sources caution that nothing has been decided yet.

  • McConnell has said publicly that he would be surprised if there are 67 votes to convict Trump. Privately, he has signaled even greater confidence of acquittal, according to a Republican senator.
  • McConnell has also indicated he sees nothing but political downside in the futile exercise of calling up controversial witnesses and drawing out a messy Senate show trial.
  • Besides, all witnesses need 51 votes in the Senate, and it's highly unlikely that moderate Republicans will cater to Trump's desires to call up witnesses like Adam Schiff and Hunter Biden.

The backstory: Initially, POTUS "genuinely wanted a long trial with all the witnesses to push back," said a source who's discussed the matter with Trump.

  • "But now he thinks we're winning," the source said. "He's been talked into being a lot more comfortable with what the Senate wanted all along, which is a short trial and no witnesses."
  • A second source familiar with the discussions added: "As far as length of time, it really depends on how long the Senate gives the House to present. Remember, it's a presentation now. ... The [House] managers will be the witnesses."

Between the lines: Sources familiar with the internal discussions say they expect White House counsel Pat Cipollone to lead Trump's defense in the Senate, but they caution that the president hasn't made his final call on the composition of his legal team.

  • "This is going to be a White House counsel-led hearing because the two counts are all official acts," said a source familiar with the discussions.
  • "It's the flip side" of the Bill Clinton impeachment, the source added. "Clinton was private matters and therefore his personal lawyers took the lead. But I will say it's also very fluid. Who is going to be the presenting team is a work in progress. ... Things can change."
  • "I think this gets figured out this week," the source added.

Go deeper: Schumer's opening pitch for the Senate impeachment trial

Go deeper

"No decision made" by Pelosi on sending impeachment articles

Pelosi and Schumer at a news conference last year. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

When the House of Representatives returns to work Tuesday, don't expect an immediate announcement by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

The latest: A leadership aide tells Axios no decision has been made and that it may be a couple of weeks before Democrats can understand the significance of new revelations about Ukraine-related information being withheld by the White House — and whether at least four Republican senators are concerned enough to join forces with Democrats and demand more disclosures as part of President Trump's trial.

Go deeperArrowJan 5, 2020

Pelosi downplays delaying delivery of impeachment articles to Senate

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she plans to name House managers for President Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate after that chamber's leaders set the parameters for what the trial will look like, suggesting that the newly passed articles of impeachment will be transmitted to the Senate soon after.

Why it matters: Some House Democrats floated delaying the delivery of the articles in an effort to buy more time and potentially more favorable terms for the Senate trial. However, Pelosi signaled that she doesn't plan for there to be a long standoff with the Senate.

Go deeperArrowDec 19, 2019

What to expect this week as Pelosi prepares to send articles of impeachment

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

As she prepares to finally send over the articles of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is warning there could be a "cover-up" to protect President Trump in the Republican-led Senate. Republicans, meanwhile, are testing ways to use the trial as a wedge issue on Democrats.

Driving the news: Pelosi is expected to name House managers this week after consulting with her caucus at a meeting on Tuesday morning. She'll deliver the articles shortly after, though the precise timing is still unclear.

Go deeperArrowJan 12, 2020