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Here We Go: Trump’s Impeachment Trial Just Kicked Off in the Senate

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include last-minute changes to the Senate trial rules from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. WASHINGTON — And away we go. The Senate gaveled in for its first real day of President Trump’s impeachment trial on Tuesday, setting up a series of votes to lock in rules designed by…

Here We Go: Trump’s Impeachment Trial Just Kicked Off in the Senate

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include last-minute changes to the Senate trial rules from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

WASHINGTON — And away we go.

The Senate gaveled in for its first real day of President Trump’s impeachment trial on Tuesday, setting up a series of votes to lock in rules designed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to rush through the trial, though that plan hit a bit of a hiccup as the trial itself began.

McConnell, who has been closely coordinating with the White House, plans to force the Senate through a rapid-fire impeachment trial designed to minimize the political risk for both GOP senators and Trump.

“Today we will consider and pass an organizing resolution that will structure the first phase of the trial. This initial step will offer an early signal to our country. Can the Senate still serve our founding purpose? Can we still put fairness, evenhandedness and historical precedent ahead of the partisan passions of the day? Today’s vote will contain some answers,” McConnell said Tuesday.

At the last minute, however, McConnell backed away from two provisions. He’s now giving each side three days to present its case, instead of two, and will allow evidence gathered during the House investigation to be submitted to the Senate without a required vote.

A spokesperson for McConnell said those changes were made “following member discussions at today’s [GOP Senate] lunch” — just minutes before the trial began.

The eleventh-hour changes came after a cadre of moderate GOP senators including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) objected to some of his most over-the-top restrictions on the trial. They were announced on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon as the rules package was read into the record — the first Democrats had heard of the new plan.

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Shortly before that, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned that the proposed rule package would short-circuit democracy.

“The McConnell rules seem to be designed by President Trump, for President Trump. It asks the Senate to rush through as fast as possible and makes getting evidence as hard as possible,” Schumer warned as the trial began. “The McConnell resolution will result in a rushed trial with little evidence in the dark of night.”

McConnell began the Senate trial by introducing his rules package, one he’d refused to share publicly for weeks before dropping it late Monday night. Democrats plan to offer a series of amendments to open up the trial’s proceedings — but they’re all destined to fail.

McConnell’s concession for two more days of testimony means the trial days likely won’t run quite as late into the night — merely to around 9 p.m. rather than midnight or later. With the new schedule, this phase of the impeachment trial will likely wrap up next Tuesday. The whole trial might wrap up not long afterward, which could allow Trump to claim vindication at his Feb. 4 State of the Union speech.

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