With opening arguments wrapped up in United States President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, senators will now get a chance to ask questions. But the normally loquacious politicians will still have to keep silent, as their questions can only be submitted in writing.
The question-and-answer session, expected to last two days, will allow the lawyers on both sides to make their final points before the senators vote on whether to hear witnesses and, eventually, on whether to convict the president and remove him from office.
A look at the questions and answers:
The senators must submit their questions to the presiding officer, Chief Justice John Roberts. He will then read them and request an answer.
Senators must direct their question to either the House impeachment managers or the White House lawyers, not both, and senators cannot ask each other questions. Senators also cannot respond after their questions are answered.
The process keeps the senators silent, like a jury, as they decide whether to vote to convict the president.
When a senator has a question, a Senate page is expected to take the piece of paper from their desk to Roberts’ seat at the head of the Senate. The senator must sign the piece of paper.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the questions would alternate between Republicans and Democrats.
Senators on both sides have been coordinating with their leadership to ensure the questions are not duplicative. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he’d been given a form on which to list his questions. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he’d given his questions to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s office, just so they could figure out the “sequencing and avoiding duplication.”
Durbin said that when he asked a question during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, “it turned out six other people had the same idea. So we all joined in one question, and it was attributed to all of us.”
Senators have up to 16 hours to ask questions, as they did in Clinton’s trial. That should break down into two eight-hour days, with senators taking breaks after every 10 or 12 questions.
There is no official time limit for House impeachment managers or White House lawyers to respond, but both McConnell and Roberts urged brevity.