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House set for historic floor vote on impeachment

The Democratic-led House is expected to vote on the two articles of impeachment of President Trump this coming week. If passed, the process will head for a trial in the Senate, where Republicans have a majority. Negotiations are reportedly underway on who will testify, the president’s representation and how long the trial will last. NYU Law Professor Ryan Goodman joins Hari Sreenivasan for more.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Joining us now for more on what comes next in the impeachment process and what a trial in the Senate may look like is Ryan Goodman. He's a professor of law at New York University and co- editor in chief of the "Justice Security" website.

    So, here we are. We're technically almost out of the House. It goes to the Senate now. And the rules and how it's even played out are one of those things that we're now thinking about.

  • Ryan Goodman:

    Right. So the critical next question really is, what will those rules be? Mitch McConnell gets to, in a certain sense, write them, as long as he has a simple majority of the Senate agreeing with him. So it's those critical Republicans right in the middle that determine what this will look like. Will there be witnesses? How fast will the entire process take? Are they just trying to get this out of the way or they're trying to make it look a little bit more robust than that?

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Now, the White House says they want witnesses. They want Hunter Biden on the stand. They want Nancy Pelosi. They want a bunch of other people. So is there an incentive then?

  • Ryan Goodman:

    If they open that door, if they open that door to some witnesses for the president's side, it's going to be very hard for them not to allow the House managers to bring witnesses. And then the key ones are the ones that they couldn't get in the House. John Bolton, I think, would be the star witness. Mick Mulvaney would be probably next on their wish list. Maybe Rudy Giuliani, though he is not the most reliable witness. And I think that's what's really at stake here. And I think the Democrats in the House, the House managers, have a strong argument as long as there're any witnesses: we want a real trial, these are the people that you want to hear from.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And in this case, that there is a real trial. What is the role of the chief justice of the Supreme Court? Is he like a normal judge in these things? Is he just working within the confines of whatever the rules are that Mitch McConnell sets up?

  • Ryan Goodman:

    So the chief justice basically is regulated by the rules themselves. He's constricted. And in a certain sense, if the rules already are set up to say, no witnesses, there's nothing that he can really do about it. But if there is any wiggle room and as lawyers, there's lots of wiggle room and you can interpret certain rules different ways. If he has an interpretation of the rules, that sticks. That's the chief justice presiding over the proceedings. But he can be rebutted by a simple majority. I think a large part of this is not about the formal rules, but the legitimacy of how they decide to proceed. And yes, they might be, as many people think, like an acquittal in the Senate. But the question is, is an acquittal that the American public thinks was a fair process and a real trial, if indeed it comes to certain key questions that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court says should be X, and then a political group of Republicans say not X. I think that's going to put them in some jeopardy.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And technically, all the senators are part of the jury. And obviously we have now Republican senators that are saying, well, we have already decided before they've seen the trial, but this is also coming during a presidential season. Right? And so these there are campaign questions that are happening. How long will the senators be sticking around? Are they going to be there watching this the entire time?

  • Ryan Goodman:

    Yes. It's a strange confluence of events at this particular moment. It looks like the Senate will start the trial when they return early January. And that's the exact period of time for the Democratic primary heading in towards Iowa. And you have many of the senators who are up for that primary. So do they have to be seated for six days a week rather than on the campaign trail? That's one implication of it.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right. Ryan Goodman from the "Just Security" blog and NYU Law School. Thanks so much.

  • Ryan Goodman:

    Thank you.

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