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What's Next In Impeachment And Trial


The pause between the House vote to impeach President Trump and the issue moving to the Senate is about to end. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's sending articles of impeachment across the Capitol to the Senate this week, and that means the trial to remove Donald J. Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress is not far behind.

NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell joins us now. Hey there.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the speaker says she's finally sending these articles after a few weeks of delay. The president has been impeached, and the question facing the Senate is whether he should be removed. Walk us through this process of passing the articles from one chamber of Congress to the other. Does it look like just someone walking down the halls?

SNELL: Well, first things first, Pelosi's probably going to go on Tuesday morning and go talk to all of the members of the Democratic Caucus. She does this every single week, and it's this closed-door meeting in this basement room in the Capitol where the Democrats all get together and get on the same page for the week ahead. And this is where we expect her to kind of tell her members how things are going to go and name who the people are from the House - the House Democrats who are going to manage the impeachment trial in the Senate. Then there will be a vote. And then they, yes, will walk it right across the hall - the very long hall that's the entirety of the Capitol - to hand it over to the Senate.

And over there, there are general rules in the Constitution, but it really comes down to one vote on a set of rules that are currently being written by Republicans and are expected to be passed by Republicans to determine exactly how the trial will go.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And there have been tons of questions - right? - about what an impeachment trial actually involves...

SNELL: Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Because the rules are being written, even about its nature. Is it like a courtroom? Should senators really be impartial jurors? What do we know about what this will actually look like?

SNELL: Well, we have heard Republicans say over and over that this is not just like a courtroom, that this is a political trial. And they will be seated. There will be people trying the two sides of the case. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it'll look a lot like what they did in 1999 for the trial of Bill Clinton. At the time, the two sides had managers - the House managers and - the White House had their attorneys. And they came over and made arguments for about 24 hours apiece. So that's 24 hours of actual sitting-in-the-room time, not 24 hours...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Hours straight...

SNELL: ...Of the whole day - exactly.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Scared me 'cause I have to host these things sometimes.

SNELL: (Laughter) I'll be there with you. (Laughter) And you know, we expect that it's going to be something similar to that. And you won't - kind of know what those House arguments are. We heard them happen all through the entire House process. The really interesting part, I think, will be when we hear for the White House for the very first time. You know, they haven't participated in this impeachment at all, and the Senate trial will be the first time that that happens.

And then, once those arguments are done, senators will have to submit written questions, and they have to do it quietly. They can't talk. Can you imagine all hundred of the U.S. senators sitting silently through an entire process of the impeachment of this president?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It sounds - I don't know. It sounds like people might enjoy that. And what about the push for testimony and the calling of actual witnesses? I mean, this has been a huge issue.

SNELL: It has, and it's still yet to be determined. The phase one - that big rule that's going to pass at the beginning - really only determines how much time people have to make their arguments and how, like, the early portions of the pretrial process will go. The big open question of witnesses won't even be settled until the two sides make their cases at the beginning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And all this is happening weeks before caucusgoers in Iowa officially kick off the 2020 election. Could this still be playing out in the first week of February?

SNELL: We're not sure. But don't forget that there's also a State of the Union. So there's a lot pushing both sides to get this done quickly.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell. Thank you so much.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.