Impeachment trial curveball: What’s the schedule now that witnesses will be called?


The second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is on track to conclude less than a week after it began.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Senate began Saturday’s impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump by agreeing 55 to 45 to call witnesses, a move that will extend the trial — and impeachment vote — beyond Saturday. Specifically, the House managers who serve as prosecution in the trial will seek to subpoena Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican, as well as her notes.

The discussion comes after Herrera Beutler released a statement Friday claiming that Trump expressed sympathy for the mob in a phone call with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the riots on Jan. 6. In his opening remarks this morning, Lead House manager Jamie Raskin said the managers “seek the opportunity to take depositions via Zoom for less than an hour or subpoena other relevant documents as well.”

WatchHow to watch Trump impeachment trial live coverage

Up until this point, the Senate was expected to vote as soon as this afternoon on whether to acquit or convict Trump on “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the riot and attack on the Capitol Jan. 6. Now, the trail could potentially continue for weeks, depending on what happens next.

After two days where House trial managers laid out their case against Trump, the former president’s defense team — Bruce Castor, David Schoen and Michael van der Veen — wrapped up their arguments Friday afternoon, using less than three hours of their permitted 16 to present their case. As a result, the Senate impeachment schedule has shifted once more, a daily occurrence since before the trial began Tuesday.

Here’s how the trial schedule could run now. Here’s a recap of the impeachment trial so far.

US Capitol building

The impeachment is taking place in the Capitol, the siege of which Trump is accused of inciting just last month.


When will the impeachment vote happen now?

The vote to call witnesses changes the impeachment trial timeline. The Senate will need to provide enough time to depose each witness, and for each party to complete “discovery” before testimony is given, a move that could push the trial back by days, weeks or even months, depending on how many witnesses are called and documents subpoenaed.

Any extension to the length of the trial could also potentially delay negotiation and a vote on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, which would include a third stimulus check and $400 unemployment insurance bonus. Congressional Democrats aim to pass the bill in the Senate before benefits lapse on March 14. If successful, it would bring a third stimulus check by March. House committees have used this week to hammer out the details of Biden’s bill while the Senate focused on the trial.

One option is for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer could set up a trial committee to take depositions, allowing the
Senate to move ahead with Biden’s stimulus bill. Otherwise, the rescue package and $1,400 stimulus checks could be delayed for weeks or months while the trial continues.

Trump has already rejected a formal request by House managers to testify. They could still decide to subpoena him. Calling former Vice President Mike Pence as a witness is another potential move. It isn’t clear if Democrats would take either course.

Prior to Saturday’s schedule curveball, the trial was on track to the shortest in history for a president. Trump’s first trial, in 2019, ran 21 days. The trial of President Bill Clinton took 37 days; that of President Andrew Johnson lasted 83 days.

For more information on Trump’s impeachment, you can follow along with the trial and see the videos presented as evidence so far.


Brett Pearce/CNET