Is there any chance impeachment will be over by the State of the Union -- or the Iowa caucus?

Seems reeeeeeally unlikely. Iowa votes on Monday, February 3, amd Trump delivers the SOTU a day later. McConnell said yesterday that the trial’s likely to begin next Tuesday with a Senate vote on the rules that’ll govern the proceedings.

That leaves them with 11 business days (they’re off on Sundays), start to finish, if they want to wrap this up before caucus day. Even if they proceed at a breakneck pace, the fact that at least two new witnesses are likely to be called and deposed makes the chances of finishing so soon next to zero.

Bernie and Warren are going to be stuck in Washington the day Iowa votes. Trump will address the nation the following day as an impeached president who hasn’t yet been cleared, with Pelosi sitting right behind him.

This clusterfark melodrama is going to be amazing.

The Senate will not start debating a resolution to set up time for the opening arguments of the House prosecutors and the president’s defense team until Tuesday. McConnell indicated he will not reveal the details of the organizing resolution until next week.

It is expected to give House impeachment managers up to 24 hours to argue their case and Trump’s lawyers 24 hours to respond, mirroring the resolution that was used to begin phase one of the 1999 Clinton trial.

The organizing resolution that all 53 GOP senators back, McConnell said, will be “very, very similar” to the 1999 precedent, which also gave senators 16 hours to ask questions after which the Senate considered the question of calling for additional witnesses and evidence

The president’s legal team must also be formally notified of the start of the Senate trial and given at least two days to respond, which means opening arguments may not start until later next week.

“24 hours” in this case doesn’t mean one day, it means essentially three business days of eight hours per day. I count 10 business days total accounted for in the excerpt, and that’s without the time needed tor the Senate to debate and vote on which witnesses to call as well as the ensuing slowdown while those witnesses are interviewed.

“It’s going to go longer than people think,” said one longtime Republican senator to the Hill.

How long exactly? Yahoo News reporter Jon Ward did his best to predict, using the Clinton 1999 trial as a benchmark. McConnell and the GOP aren’t strictly bound by that timeline, of course, but they’d like to follow the same playbook in order to make it harder for Democrats to accuse them later of rushing to judgment. “We’re using the same timetable now that we used then,” Republicans will say. And so:

I’m looking at a calendar and can’t figure out a way the trial realistically might end before the Iowa caucus even if you throw out parts of the Clinton playbook. It begins on the 21st, followed by a two-day break to give the defense time to prepare. Let’s say it resumes on the afternoon of the 23rd with the Dems’ opening arguments. They’ll probably use all 24 hours, i.e. three days, they’ve been granted in order to maximize their opportunity to reach the viewing public. That would take us to the afternoon of the 27th (including a Sunday break) before Trump’s defense gets its own opening argument. Assume they use two days instead of three purely in the interest of moving this show along. Now it’s the afternoon of the 29th. Assume a single day of written questions from the Senate instead of the three that were taken in 1999. That brings us to the afternoon of the 30th, when the debate on calling witnesses will begin. Assume a very speedy one-day deliberation for that too. Now it’s the 31st.

Let’s then go ahead and assume that Collins and Gardner and the rest choose not to call any witnesses, even though that now seems highly unlikely thanks to John Bolton’s publicly stated willingness to testify. Closing arguments would begin. Assume House Dems take a day and (after another Sunday break) Trump’s defense takes a day for its own argument as well. That’s February 3, caucus day. Then the Senate would have to deliberate, or at least make a show of doing so. That’s another day, taking us to February 4th — the day of the State of the Union — before the acquittal would finally be issued.

The idea of Trump giving the SOTU that night as a vindicated man would appeal to Republicans, encouraging them to keep the process moving, but the timeline I’m laying out is probably the absolute fastest everything could happen. And it assumes zero successful Democratic attempts to slow down the proceedings even though Dems would have every incentive to push this beyond the SOTU to deny Trump the chance to gloat about his vindication before a national audience. And it also assumes the Collins contingent really would choose not to call Bolton despite knowing full well that Democrats would bombard them later with accusations that they were willing participants in a “sham” and a “cover-up” by deafening themselves to what he had to say.

Here’s the real question: Is this trial going to be over by the New Hampshire primary? Making it back to Iowa before the caucus is a lost cause for Bernie and Warren but there’s a fair chance they’ll be paroled and able to campaign in the northeast before NH votes on Tuesday, February 11. But it’s only a chance. If multiple witnesses end up being called, they could be delayed beyond New Hampshire as well. And if they are, and they end up losing both states to Biden, the left is going to go berserk at Pelosi for having delayed sending over the articles of impeachment for so long. It won’t just be Kevin McCarthy claiming that she deliberately sabotaged the two progressive stars in the race.

As for the GOP, we’re left to wonder if maybe they should have agreed up front to call a witness like Bolton purely in the interests of speeding things up. If they were ready to call Bolton now, he could be deposed while the rest of the trial is proceeding. As it is, by delaying the question of witnesses, they’re going to slow everything down later if they call him.

Exit question: What are we to make of the fact that Bolton, or people close to him, are leaking to the Times that he plans to dish about the Ukraine business in his upcoming book? To me that reads like another attempt by Bolton to pressure Senate Republicans into calling him to testify. If Collins’s goal in all this is to convince Maine voters that she did her job diligently before voting to acquit, she’d look terrible if she declined to call Bolton and then his book came out and alleged all sorts of wrongdoing by Trump. Trump critics would be enraged that she had an opportunity to hear all about that directly from Bolton himself and declined even though he was willing to talk. The “sham” and “cover-up” accusations would skyrocket. She’s better off finding out what he knows by calling him as a witness in order to bolster the legitimacy of her verdict.

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