Washington, D.C.  (CBS NEWS) Restless Senators will have their first chance to pose questions to House managers and President Trump’s legal team as the impeachment trial enters a new stage. Stay connected with Fm news 101 KXL for the latest on President Trump’s Impeachment Trial. Coverage expected to start today around 10am our time.

Senators will have 16 hours over the next two days to submit written questions to be read aloud by Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial. Lawmakers are eager to be more active participants in the proceedings after sitting for six days of presentations by both sides.The Q&A phase comes as Republican senators search for votes to block new witnesses. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told colleagues on Tuesday that Republicans don’t yet have the votes to prevent consideration of new testimony, but a handful of lawmakers remain undecided and want to see how the Q&A portion of the trial plays out.

Democrats would need four Republican senators to join them in voting to allow motions to compel testimony and documents, a question that is expected be put to a vote on Friday. Reports about revelations by former national security adviser John Bolton in an upcoming book have increased pressure on senators to hear from new witnesses.

The Senate will reconvene at 1 p.m. on Wednesday to begin the questioning phase, with questions alternating between parties.

Manchin says he thinks Hunter Biden is a relevant witness

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin believes Hunter Biden is a relevant witness in the impeachment trial, he said in an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning. Manchin, who represents West Virginia, is one of the few Democrats who appears open to voting to acquit Mr. Trump.

White House attorneys have accused former Vice President Joe Biden of pushing to remove a Ukrainian prosecutor general to protect a gas company that employed Hunter Biden. Some Republican senators have called for a “one-for-one” witness exchange, in which Democrats would call Bolton as a witness in return for hearing from Joe or Hunter Biden.

Manchin said he would “absolutely” vote to call Hunter Biden as a witness if it is deemed “pertinent.”

“I want witnesses, I want people to tell me what you know. You’re asking me to make the most important decision I’ve ever made in the critical arena that I’m in or as an individual and I want to hear everything I can,” Manchin said. “I want to make sure that the decision I make is the right decision.”

Manchin also told reporters in the Capitol Wednesday morning that he wanted Roberts to rule on the relevance of Biden’s testimony.

The cards senators will use to pose questions

The cards to be used by senators who wish to ask questions at the Senate impeachment trial. CBS NEWS / NANCY CORDES

McConnell wasn’t kidding when he asked senators to be “thoughtful and brief” with their questions. Senators who wish to ask questions of the House managers or president’s defense team will have a spare six lines to write questions for Roberts to read aloud during the 16-hour Q&A period.

McConnell explains process for senators to ask questions

Following the end of arguments from Mr. Trump’s legal team on Tuesday, McConnell provided senators with a roadmap for the written question round of the proceedings, which he said Schumer agreed to.

The next phase will last two days beginning Wednesday, when the Senate will reconvene at 1 p.m. Senators will have up to eight hours during that session to submit written questions to each side. Questions will alternate between the Republicans and Democrats, McConnell said.

On Thursday, the Senate will resume time for written questions, again alternating between the majority and the minority parties, with up to eight hours allotted for the queries of the president’s lawyers and House managers.

After Trump’s team finished opening arguments, Mitch McConnell concluded the day by laying out the rules for the impeachment trial’s questions-and-answers phase https://www.cbsnews.com/live-updates/impeachment-trial-trump-day-7-defense-2020-01-28-live-updating/ 

Embedded video

Questions must be in writing and submitted to the chief justice. McConnell urged his colleagues to be “thoughtful and brief,” as they were during the impeachment trial for President Bill Clinton in 1999, and encouraged the House managers and president’s counsel to be “succinct” with their answers.

“I hope we can follow both of these examples during this time,” McConnell said.

Roberts quoted the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s advice to counsel on both sides when he presided over the proceedings in 1999 “that the chair will operate on a rebuttable presumption that each question can be fully and fairly answered in five minutes or less.”

“The transcript indicates that the statement was met with ‘laughter,'” Roberts said to laughs of his own in the Senate chamber. “Nonetheless, managers and counsel generally limited their responses accordingly. I think the late chief’s time limit was a good one and would ask both sides to abide by it.”

White House at “DEFCON 2” over witness testimony

McConnell doesn’t have the votes to block witness testimony yet, a GOP source tells CBS News. A handful of Republican senators are still undecided and want to see how the Q&A session goes before making their decision.

Senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins have both publicly expressed being open to voting to subpoena witnesses. In addition, the White House is concerned Senators Lamar and Lisa Murkowski would also vote in favor of hearing witness testimony.

“We need to chisel four down to two,” a White House official tells CBS News. “We are comparing notes with the leader’s office. I would say we are at DEFCON 2.”

Should any vote end in a 50-50 tie, Roberts would be called on to cast the deciding vote. The White House is confident Roberts would not break the tie in favor of hearing witness testimony, but would prefer the vote fail outright, the official said. — Major Garrett and Nancy Cordes

Read more:

More about: