Impeachment Trial Could Derail Democratic Campaigns for President

FILE PHOTO: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) arrives to a "Bernie's Back" rally at Queensbridge Park in the Queens Borough of New York City, U.S., October 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yana Paskova

If the House impeaches President Donald Trump, the impeachment trial in the Senate may derail some Democratic campaigns for president.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-Va.) told reporters that an impeachment trial could take six to eight weeks. If the Senate uses previous impeachment hearing schedules, it will be in session six days a week with trial times running from 12:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. That intensive schedule would require several Democratic Senators running for president to be present for the hearings.

The list of potentially impacted Democrats includes Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Ca.), Cory Booker (D-Nj.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Mn.) and Michael Bennet (D-Co.), who are all still in the race.

“We basically hear the case, and then we have to come to a verdict. That will probably be a six- or eight- weeks process,” Burr said during an event at Wake Forest University.  

It’s unclear if the candidates would be required to be at the trial, but it’d be highly unusual for a senator not to attend an impeachment trial of the president. And not attending could create problems of its own, as it may de-legitimize the authority of the Senate or make it appear like a candidate was not interested in the impeachment inquiry.

With an impeachment vote expected before Thanksgiving, a potential trial in the Senate could begin in early December. Two months after that would be early February, right as the very first Iowa caucuses in the Democratic primary takes place (Feb. 3). If the senators are unable to campaign leading up to that vote, it will leave many of them relying on their surrogates while they run television ads to make up for it.

“We did not build this into our media budget,” one campaign aide to a senator running for president told TIME. “We had counted on some earned media in-state. Now, we probably won’t even be in the state to earn it.”

If an impeachment trial does run from December into February, it would be a huge advantage for non-senator candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg, who are already polling well in Iowa and New Hampshire.

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