Some Republican senators are suggesting that if they succeed in blocking witnesses in a pivotal vote on Friday evening, they will push to end the trial that night—even if that means a vote to acquit President Trump could occur in the wee hours Saturday morning.
“People are planning to try to get through this complete process tomorrow, after the completion of the vote on witnesses,” Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) told reporters on Thursday afternoon.
“The idea would be to move right along to end it,” he said.
Senators are expected to reconvene on Friday at 1 p.m. for four hours of debate on whether to allow witnesses or documents. The debate will be evenly divided between the Democratic House managers, who are acting as prosecutors, and the president’s legal team.
Afterward, senators are expected to vote on the motion, which, if passed, will open the door to the Senate subpoenaing witnesses and documents. The motion does not request specific witnesses and documents. Then senators could offer any number of motions calling for witnesses by name, asking for specific documents, setting parameters for the rest of the trial, or moving to dismiss the articles of impeachment.
Mr. Barrasso, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, said that if Republicans defeat that motion, he doesn’t see any need for further deliberations or closing arguments, since the outcome is all but certain. It would take 67 senators voting to convict Mr. Trump in order to remove him from office. Republicans hold 53 of 100 seats in the Senate.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), who is expected to get the first chance to make a motion once the witness vote concludes, has not yet indicated what he plans to do. It’s also not yet known whether Mr. McConnell has the 51 votes necessary to block witnesses, although Mr. Barasso and other Republicans have indicated they’re growing more confident.
Under the rules Mr. McConnell drafted and Republicans passed at the start of the trial, the moment the gavel falls on the witness vote, any senator can offer any motions under impeachment rules.
If Republicans succeed in blocking witnesses, Democrats might not let the trial end quietly. They are looking into all parliamentary options to try to force deliberations, closing arguments and as many votes as they can before final judgment, to put Republicans on the record.
“I think we’ll look at all of our options to try to raise as much contest as we can, if they actually, move forward with the coverup,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.). “I mean, I know they all want to go watch the Super Bowl, but that’s not what they got elected to do, they got elected to to obey the Constitution.”
Mr. Murphy said he’d be very surprised if Republicans moved forward to a final judgment vote without allowing senators, who are acting as jurors, to spend time deliberating.
“If they really try to wrap this up without jury deliberations or witnesses they risk turning this entire place into a joke,” he said.