2020 Senate Democrats Brush Off Concerns About Lengthy Impeachment Trial

The senators maintain that possibly being forced to stay in Washington amid primary season wouldn't be a big deal.

WASHINGTON ― The prospect of a lengthy impeachment trial in the Senate that stretches into the critical presidential primary season early next year isn’t giving pause to 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who would be required to stay in Washington until the proceedings are finished.

“You really have to let the chips fall where they may. This is our constitutional duty. If the trial is in January, if the trial is in February, we’re going to have to be here,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told HuffPost on Tuesday.

The Minnesota senator added that her surrogates, which include a number of former and current elected officials, could give her a hand by speaking on her behalf “if necessary.”

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who has struggled to gain traction in the Democratic presidential primary, also said he wasn’t worried about being forced to stay in Washington while many of the other candidates who are not serving in the upper chamber campaign in the early nominating states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

“We have to do our job,” he said on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reminded senators last week that the hypothetical trial would carry on six days a week (all except Sunday) until a final vote on conviction or a motion of dismissal. All senators would be required to present themselves to work around 12:30 p.m. each day to act as jurors.

Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial lasted five weeks ― meaning Trump’s trial could take up the entire legislative work period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, depending on how fast the House advances its inquiry into the president. If the House moves slower or decides to broaden its inquiry by calling additional witnesses to testify, the process could slip even later into the next year. 

For the moment, top House Democrats are staying mum about the scope of the inquiry and when they expect final votes on articles of impeachment against Trump.

“The timeline will depend on the truth-line,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters last week.

Other Senate Democrats sought to dismiss the political ramifications about a lengthy impeachment trial on Tuesday, maintaining the Senate had a duty to carry out its constitutional responsibilities despite a presidential campaign.

“I haven’t thought of that at all,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters at a weekly press conference.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee, acknowledged that an impeachment trial in the middle of primary season “would have an effect” on senators running for president. But he, too, argued Democrats were bound to not carry out the job “halfway.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who dropped out of the presidential race in August, meanwhile, noted that most of the 2020 candidates had already invested a large amount of time interacting with communities in early nominating states.

“I don’t think it has to affect them negatively in any way,” she said, noting that she visited Iowa 12 times before she quit her campaign. “If we have to spend a month doing our constitutional duty, I think all of them would be very responsible and very eager to do that job.”

But Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) argued that a quicker trial would be more advantageous than one that takes place later on the calendar.

“I think the quicker we can get to the facts and move on those facts, the better way we are,” he said. “People are going to want to extend this until next year at this time when this is a much bigger issue.”