SALT LAKE CITY — Perhaps keeping their mouths shut will be one of biggest challenges for senators during the first week of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
Senate rules preclude talking and cellphone use during the proceedings, which could last 12 or 13 hours a day — no easy task for a roomful of politicians.
“Those two things are difficult for some of my colleagues to take. We all have bets on who violates the no speaking rule first. There’s a lot of money on Lindsey Graham,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, quipped Monday on KSL NewsRadio’s “Dave and Dujanovic.”
A sergeant-at-arms will request each session that senators remain silent under penalty of imprisonment according to rules that date back to 1860, he said.
“That’s a pretty somber reminder that we’ll be hearing every day. I think people will more or less heed it,” Lee said.
The Senate is expected to vote on rules governing the trial today.
Lee said he expects the initial phase to last seven or eight days. Opening arguments from the prosecution and defense is limited to 24 hours, which he said he expects would stretch over two days.
“It’s a lot of argument They didn’t use anywhere near that amount of time in the Clinton impeachment trial. It remains to be seen whether they’ll use it all here. But regardless we’re going to hear a lot of talking,” he said.
Lee said he anticipates the Senate voting on whether to call witnesses at the end of the seventh day or the start of the eighth. He said it makes sense to do it that way because some senators want to hear the arguments before making up their minds about calling witnesses.
One of them is Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. He is among a small group of senators who want the ability to call witnesses following opening arguments and questions by senators to the prosecution and defense teams.
Lee, though, is not of that mind.
Testimony in the House didn’t yield anything new since Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, appeared before a committee last October. he said.
They don’t articulate any offense that is impeachable or in my view even criminal or wrong. This is supposed to be very difficult to overturn a presidential election and that’s what they’re asking us to do here and they don’t have a valid basis for doing it.
–Utah Sen. Mike Lee
“What we’ve seen is witnesses who have stated their opinion but haven’t stated anything articulable as an impeachable offense,” he said.
Lee said he doesn’t see any scenario in which the Senate gets the 67 votes needed to remove Trump from office. The defense case, which he helped craft, is compelling, he said.
“The charges made by the House prosecutors are not well founded. They don’t articulate any offense that is impeachable or in my view even criminal or wrong,” he said. “This is supposed to be very difficult to overturn a presidential election and that’s what they’re asking us to do here and they don’t have a valid basis for doing it.”
Former Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, who served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, said he appreciates the gravity and magnitude of the Senate’s duty.
“This is a solemn responsibility that requires prudence and restraint from all parties involved. I trust my former colleagues to act accordingly — and I have every confidence in the majority leader’s ability to guide these proceedings in a fair and judicious manner,” he said in a statement Monday.