Congress

What day of the Trump trial is it? It turns out there’s no wrong answer

(But we say it started Wednesday)

 Capitol workers wind the Ohio Clock in the Ohio Clock Corridor in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

When did the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump begin?

This publication says Wednesday, but depending on which news outlet you watch or read, Thursday could be the second, third or fourth day of the trial.

C-SPAN refers to Thursday as Day Four of the impeachment trial, counting the proceedings as having begun one week ago when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made his first appearance and senators took the impeachment oath.

Many news organizations, including CBS News, CNN and The Washington Post, are considering Thursday the third day of the Senate trial, having started counting on Tuesday. That’s when House impeachment managers led by Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff of California and members of the president’s legal defense team made arguments about procedural rules and whether the Senate should call witnesses and subpoena documents.

Like so many things about the Senate, there appears to be no hard and fast rule.

It can get confusing, but CQ Roll Call has decided to take a different course.

Going forward, this outlet will count Wednesday as the first day of the actual impeachment trial, following the precedent of the official printed records of the 1999 Senate trial proceedings of President Bill Clinton.

Asked about when the trial began, the Senate historical office offered that in the Clinton case, a distinction was made in the bound records between “Preliminary Proceedings” printed in Volume One and “Floor Trial Proceedings” printed in Volume Two.

The break in proceedings in that case took place on Jan. 14, with the second volume of records starting with the up to 24 hours provided for the House impeachment managers to make their presentation of the case in favor of removing Clinton from office.

In the Trump case, that time started when the Senate convened as the court of impeachment on Wednesday afternoon and the chief justice recognized Schiff to begin making the case rather than during Tuesday’s floor arguments ahead of the party-line adoption of the procedural resolution offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Therefore, journalists throughout the CQ Roll Call newsroom will hereafter consider Wednesday, Jan. 22, the start of the Trump impeachment trial, and events prior to that date will be recorded as preliminary proceedings.

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