Entering their final day of formal arguments Friday, House impeachment managers are poised to bring to a close the case against President Donald Trump that they have been methodically assembling since Wednesday.
There have been conspicuous signs that fatigue is growing among the senators, who have already heard nearly 16 hours of presentations. Some have looked restless, leaving their desks, whispering during session and even nodding off — all testing the limits of trial rules.
As patience wavers, both the House managers and Trump’s lawyers might be reconsidering how to keep the room engaged. The managers could take one more eight-hour day to put the finishing touches on their case, or they could move quickly to a concise conclusion. Meanwhile, the defense lawyers will be fine-tuning the opening arguments they are scheduled to begin delivering Saturday, as well as weighing how extensive their presentation should be.
What we’re expecting to see: The conclusion of the House managers’ opening arguments.
When we’re likely to see it: The managers are expected to return to the floor at 1 p.m. as usual, allowing Chief Justice John Roberts to keep his morning schedule in the Supreme Court. The managers will continue to deliver their arguments until the remainder of their allotted 24 hours expires or they decide to wrap up their case.
What of witnesses?
Republicans seemed largely unmoved Thursday by calls from Democrats to introduce new witnesses, a move that could significantly lengthen the trial. Despite chatter about a potential “witness trade” deal in which each side could call a number of witnesses of interest, such a deal seemed unlikely.
On the trial’s sidelines, senators have sporadically been making their stances known. Earlier Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said he was cautiously optimistic that enough Republicans would join him in voting to call witnesses like John Bolton, the former national security adviser, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff. During a break Wednesday night, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters he would resist pressure from his colleagues to call the whistleblower or members of the Biden family to testify.
Without witnesses, the impeachment trial could go to a vote and conclude as early as next week.
Looking forward to the weekend
After a long week, proposals started circulating Thursday for an abbreviated trial schedule Saturday, perhaps starting closer to 10 a.m. Under current rules, Trump’s lawyers would begin at the usual 1 p.m.
The prospect of starting, and potentially ending, early Saturday would give senators the chance to leave Washington sooner, and allow the four senators running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination to log a few extra hours on the campaign trail.
But timing might also factor into Trump’s lawyers’ strategy and they could be disinclined to break early. If they see advantages in forging ahead with as much of their opening arguments as possible before next week, the legal team may favor taking a full day on Saturday.
Both Democrats and Republicans would have to agree to any adjustments to the schedule.