WASHINGTON (CN) — With the Senate prepared to kick off President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, the White House is not anticipating proceedings to last more than two weeks, a senior administration official said Wednesday.
Ending a month-long standoff, the House voted Wednesday to finally transmit the articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate, which is expected to start the trial early next week after taking care of preliminary issues before the weekend.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., plans to begin the trial by passing a resolution that sets broad rules for how the proceedings will play out, including how long House managers and Trump’s defense team have to make their arguments, while leaving issues like witnesses until later in the trial.
It is not yet clear how long the trial will last, but the senior administration official told reporters Wednesday the White House is not anticipating it will run into Trump’s State of the Union address, which is currently set for Feb. 4.
“I think it’s extraordinarily unlikely that we’d be going beyond two weeks,” the official said. “We think the case is overwhelming for the president and the Senate’s not going to have any need to be taking that amount of time on this.”
President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial lasted roughly a month in 1999.
On Tuesday, McConnell said it is unlikely that there would be enough Republican support to back a quick motion to dismiss the case against Trump before senators hear both sides’ arguments and have the chance to ask questions through Chief Justice John Roberts.
One of the key issues that led Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to hold up the articles of impeachment for almost a month was whether the Senate would hear from witnesses, an issue that remains outstanding on the eve of trial.
Democrats have clamored for testimony from administration officials like former National Security Advisor John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, while Republicans have cautioned they would counter any such appearance by calling former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.
House Democrats impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after accusing him of leveraging a $400 million military aid package and a coveted White House visit in exchange for Ukraine announcing investigations into Hunter Biden’s work on the board of a Ukrainian energy company and an unfounded theory about interference in the 2016 presidential election.
McConnell has said senators will determine which, if any, witnesses will appear at the trial by majority vote and a handful of Republican senators have indicated they could be willing to support bringing witnesses in to testify.
The senior administration official repeated the White House’s contention that the Senate should not need to hear from witnesses and hinted Trump could claim executive privilege if Democrats are successful in calling Bolton.
“I think it’s fair to say though that it would be extraordinary to have the national security advisor testifying about his communications directly with the president about foreign policy and national security matters,” the official said.
When asked about the White House’s two-week expectation for a Senate trial when articles finally reach the chamber, Senator Tom Carper, D-Del., said he felt there were Republicans who would like to dismiss the charges on day one. However, he said he thought other GOP senators were interested in a fair trial.
“I think there’s a number of folks on the Republican side who say they’re not interested in that, they want to have a fair and open process and I’m encouraged there are a number of Republican colleagues, certainly more than four, who want to see additional witnesses allowed to testify and relevant information made available to us,” Carper told Courthouse News.