A GOP rules plan for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump unveiled by Senate Republicans on Monday could pave the way for the trial to be finished in as little as two weeks, as the plan envisions squeezing 48 hours of opening arguments into just four days, with the option of voting on the impeachment articles without any additional witnesses or evidence. 'Just because the House proceedings were a circus that doesn’t mean the Senate’s trial needs to be,' said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who fully endorsed the proposal from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. While GOP Senators said the plan would be modeled on a bipartisan rules deal at the start of the Clinton impeachment trial, there were two notable differences from 21 years ago, governing opening arguments, and the submission of evidence. While each side would get 24 hours to make their opening arguments, this GOP plan would force that time to be used in just two days - raising the specter of an impeachment trial which could stretch well into the night because of those time constraints. Another change would require an affirmative vote by the Senate to simply put the investigatory materials from the House into the trial record, something which was done automatically in the Clinton impeachment trial. Also, even if extra witnesses were approved by Senators, it would not guarantee their testimony on the Senate floor, as there would have to be a vote after the depositions on whether the witness would testify publicly. With a Tuesday debate set on the rules, Republicans also made clear they would not support any move to add witnesses until after opening arguments have been completed. 'If attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts,' said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT). Meanwhile, Democrats roundly denounced the GOP rules details. 'The proposal that Majority Leader McConnell just released looks more like a cover up than a fair trial,' said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE). 'Mitch McConnell doesn't want a fair trial, he wants a fast trial,' said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). 'It's all about the cover up,' said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). 'These are not the Clinton rules.' 'There’s nothing in this resolution that requires hearing witnesses or admitting evidence — which is unlike any trial I’ve ever seen,' said Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN). 'Under this resolution, Senator McConnell is saying he doesn’t want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn’t want to hear any new evidence,' said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, who promised to offer amendments to the plan on Tuesday afternoon. Debate and votes on the rules resolution will start on Tuesday afternoon - and could turn into an extended battle on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
With chilly temperatures this morning in the 30’s, inland communities are under a freeze warning until 10 am. Action News Jax Meteorologist Corey Simma says temperatures this afternoon only climb to the upper 40's to near 50 degrees. And it will be breezy so it feels colder. Expect a widespread freeze on Wednesday morning, and a hard freeze well inland, with another day in the 50's. Then a gradual warming trend will arrive to end the week. Friday’s high temperature will be in the low 70’s but with widely scattered afternoon showers.
With election season ramping up across the country, local election officials are happy to see a new change in federal policy. The FBI announced last week that the agency is working toward a commitment to notify state officials if election systems have been breached. Chris Chambless is the supervisor of elections in Clay County, but he’s also part of the Government Coordinating Council for the Election Infrastructure Subsector. He says that was created to set up policy in case there’s a cyber security issue in regards to elections. “Really it’s about notification and how to recover from an incident,” Chambless says. He says looking back at the 2016 election and how certain government entities were kept in the dark about certain threats, it’s a good thing that the federal government is taking steps in the right direction. “All of the sate, local, tribal territory entities will be able to, hopefully, make use of that information sooner rather than later,” Chambless says. He says election officials across the state have been in touch with various agencies and departments to come up with a solution for keeping information private as electronic hacking has become more prevalent. All those government entities are well aware of the threat right now, Chambless says. “We are focused on coming together as a community to strengthen and to make our systems more resilient to this type of attack,” he says. The threat is out there, but Chambless says the new policy changes at the federal level aren’t related to any specific threat. He says it’s a good thing that the government is being proactive before another situation comes up. “I think it’s important for everyone to realize tabulation systems are never connected to the internet,” Chambless says. He says Florida is a paper-based state, and that protects a lot of information from cyber activity. The federal policy change simply means more people will be aware when something happens, and the systems are in place to address a problem if needed.