As the House calls witnesses as part of its impeachment inquiry into President Trump, members of the Senate running for president of the United States are facing mounting questions about how they'd handle a potential trial should the House deliver articles of impeachment heading into 2020.
The Iowa caucuses will take place Monday, February 3, 2020. The New Hampshire Democratic Primary takes place just over a week later on Tuesday, February 11. But on CBS News' "Face the Nation," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had no idea whether impeachment inquiry depositions would wrap up by the end of the year.
Currently, half a dozen sitting U.S. senators are running in the crowded field including Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. If an impeachment trial were to take place, all six have vowed to carry out their responsibilities in the Senate.
But according to the rules outlined for such a trial, once the articles are presented, the Senate could be in session six days a week until judgment is rendered. Additionally, it's unclear how long a trial would last. Only two presidents have faced Senate impeachment trials in U.S. history. President Bill Clinton's 1999 Senate trial ran just over a month before he was acquitted, but President Andrew Johnson's 1868 Senate trial lasted nearly three months, from March 5 until he was acquitted on May 26.
Should the House vote to impeach Mr. Trump, senators running for president could be forced to take a significant amount of time off the campaign trail for a trial in the weeks leading up to the first presidential contests.
"Politics be damned," Booker told reporters in Des Moines, Iowa in early November when asked about the possibility of spending time in Washington. "I swore an oath that I would defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of America. I didn't say that only if there's not a presidential election going on. I said I'll do that no matter what. I will do my job."
Booker's response is similar to what his fellow Senators turned presidential hopefuls have been saying on the campaign trail.
"I will fulfill my responsibility, there's no question. I take it very seriously," said Harris, who has been putting much of her campaign focus on Iowa in recent weeks as she struggles to gain ground in the polls. But Harris did acknowledge the challenges a possible impeachment trial would bring. "I'm always concerned about limited time in Iowa, are you kidding me?" laughed Harris when asked.
"Were I able to be awake for 24 hours, if I could assure that people would talk to me for 24 hours a day, I would do it, so I am always concerned that I may not have enough time," she said. Harris said there was no question it was important she spends as much time in Iowa as much as possible leading up to the first contest.
"I don't know how you prepare for that. You know it is what it is," said Sanders of the prospect of juggling a potential trial with his campaign. Sanders told reporters in Charles City, Iowa, it will be a challenge for him and his and his fellow senators running for president, but that they work hard. "We will do our best to get back to Iowa, to get to New Hampshire, to get to all of the states that we have to, but there's no question it will make our life a little bit more difficult," Sanders said.
Klobuchar also said she'd try to get back to the trail whenever she could, but she's already considering other ways to communicate with voters in the field should she be stuck in Washington.
"You can do it by sending out some incredible surrogates like I have, like Roxanne," Klobuchar added. "You can do it with my family members. You can do it with the governor of Minnesota, whose been very happy to come down and help me and already has, You know there are many people that I'll be able to send out and help me and that's what I'm going to have to do."
Klobuchar pointed out there's no knowing how long a possible trial would last and what will happen, and she said she'd cross that bridge when they get to it.
Warren, too, plans to be in Washington should it come to a trial. "I have constitutional responsibilities," she said while filing to be on the New Hampshire presidential ballot earlier this month. "I took an oath of office, as did everyone in Congress. And part of that oath of office is the basic principle that no one is above the law. That includes the president of the United States. And if the House goes forward and sends an impeachment over to the Senate, then I will be there for the trial."
While strategists acknowledge the logistical challenge a trial might be for campaigns, it could serve as a national platform.
"Because the biggest issue in the Democratic primary is who can beat Donald Trump, you can see the theory where that national exposure could be very helpful," said Jim Messina who served as President Obama's 2012 campaign manager. "It could play into the hands of a couple of candidates who are trying to make their name as the anti-Trump candidate or as someone who really understands these issues."
The prospect of weeks in Washington has also raised questions about the role of media to get messages. Could senators potentially live tweet an impeachment trial for the first time? When asked by CBS News' Ed O'Keefe about whether jurors for a Senate trial should be allowed to have iPads and their phones, Klobuchar said it sounded like a decision for the Rules Committee, but pointed out for now, iPhones are permitted.
At the same time, while six senators considering how best to campaign if they're stuck at the U.S. capitol, several top-tier candidates will not have to navigate campaign disruptions. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, for example, and former Vice President Joe Biden would likely be able to hit the campaign trail straight through February. While that puts them on the ground more in early states, there's the national strategy to consider.