Trump aides had once viewed the annual State of the Union address as an opportunity to walk onto House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s turf following the vindication of a Senate acquittal. Senate Republicans blocked a vote to hear witnesses Friday evening, marking the beginning of the end of the impeachment trial. But debate immediately began on the next steps — the Senate had initially been expected to vote on whether to acquit Trump Friday night or early Saturday morning, but several competing interests resulted in a different deal being struck.
Senators will vote on amendments Friday night and then adjourn until Monday morning, when closing arguments will begin. A vote on whether to acquit the President is now scheduled to come Wednesday. The State of the Union address is scheduled for Tuesday.
On Friday, as Republicans and Democrats went back and forth over the next steps, the White House made clear it still wanted the final vote to come before Tuesday.
But as the discussions wore on, the White House legal team became reconciled to the idea that Trump’s acquittal vote won’t happen until Wednesday. Their message for Republicans was to get it done as soon as they can.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke by phone Friday with Trump before introducing a resolution that places an expected acquittal vote next Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the call.
“Leader McConnell called President Trump before he introduced the resolution. They discussed the details and the President signed off,” a source familiar with the call said.
For nearly the entire length of the President’s impeachment trial, his aides have viewed the State of the Union address as a pivotal moment they hoped would present an opportunity for vindication.
As Pelosi resisted transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, White House officials speculated she was attempting the draw out the proceedings to prevent Trump from delivering the annual address as an acquitted President rather than one still weathering a trial.
One White House official downplayed the possible delay, telling CNN that “20 years from now, all everyone will focus on is the acquittal, not the timing.”
When asked if there was any discussion of moving the State of the Union address, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the GOP whip, told reporters that he thinks the President is “full steam ahead on Tuesday.”
A senior Trump administration official acknowledged Friday that Trump’s State of the Union speech could come in the midst of his impeachment trial but said the speech will be “forward-looking” and “optimistic,” comparing the situation to last year when the government had just emerged from a long shutdown.
And as the impeachment trial likely progresses into next week, the official said the speech isn’t being written “in a vacuum” and “it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for the speech to evolve before it’s delivered.”