WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate seems certain to keep President Trump in office due to the overwhelming Republican support expected in his impeachment trial. But how that trial will proceed — and when it will begin — remains to be seen.
Democrats are pushing for the Senate to issue subpoenas for witnesses and documents, citing reports that they say have raised new questions about Trump's decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine.
Once the House transmits the articles of impeachment, decisions about how to conduct the trial will require 51 votes. With Republicans controlling the Senate 53-47, Democrats cannot force subpoenas on their own.
Republicans are holding the line behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's position that they should start the trial and hear arguments from House prosecutors and Trump's defense team before deciding what to do.
But small cracks in Republican unity have appeared, with two senators criticizing McConnell's pledge of "total coordination" with the White House during the impeachment trial.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she was "disturbed" by the Republican leader's comments, and that there should be distance between the White House and the Senate on how the trial is conducted.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins called the pledge by McConnell, R-Ky., inappropriate and said she is open to seeking testimony.
Democrats could find their own unity tested if and when the Senate reaches a final vote on the two House-approved impeachment charges — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
It would take 67 votes to convict Trump on either charge and remove him from office, a high bar unlikely to be reached. It's also far from certain that all 47 Democrats will find Trump guilty.
Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama said he's undecided on how he might vote and suggested he sees merits in the arguments both for and against conviction.
Here is a look at senators to watch once the impeachment trial begins:
In her fourth term representing Alaska, Murkowski is considered a key Senate moderate. She has voted against Republican leadership on multiple occasions and opposed Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court in 2018.
Murkowski told an Alaska TV station in December that there should be distance between the White House and the Republican-controlled Senate in how the trial is conducted.
"To me it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense, and so I heard what leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process," she said.
Murkowski says the Senate is being asked to cure deficiencies in the House impeachment effort, particularly when it comes to whether key witnesses should be brought forward to testify, including White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.
"How we will deal with witnesses remains to be seen," she said, adding that House leaders should have gone to court if witnesses refused to appear before Congress.
The four-term senator said she is open to calling witnesses as part of the impeachment trial but calls it "premature" to decide who should be called until evidence is presented.
"It is inappropriate, in my judgment, for senators on either side of the aisle to prejudge the evidence before they have heard what is presented to us,'' Collins told Maine Public Radio.