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McConnell makes last-minute changes to Trump impeachment trial rules

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives to the Capitol on Jan. 21, 2
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives to the Capitol on Jan. 21, 2020.   -  
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Andrew Harrer Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changed a controversial provision in the rules for the impeachment trial that would have required House prosecutors and White House lawyers make 24 hours of legal arguments in just two days and could have barred evidence gathered by the House.

The last-minute change was revealed on Tuesday as the organizing resolution for President Donald Trump's Senate trial was being read into the record on the Senate floor. The new version gives both side 24 hours to make their case over three days, instead of the two initially proposed by McConnell on Monday.

Democrats complained that the two-day limit would have meant that they would be making the arguments until 1:00 a.m. or later, depriving much of the public from being able to watch the proceedings.

"If Leader McConnell is so confident the president did nothing wrong, why don't they want the case to be presented in broad daylight?" Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked Tuesday.

The change means the trial days, which start at 1 p.m. ET, will likely now conclude around 9 pm.

It wasn't only Democrats who had issues with the timeline.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, "raised concerns" about the resolution and playing a role in the significant changes, her spokeswoman said.

"Collins and others raised concerns about the 24 hours of opening statements in 2 days and the admission of the house transcript is the record," Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark said in a statement. "Her position has been that the trial should follow the Clinton model as much as possible. She thinks these changes are a significant improvement."

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who said he would vote to acquit the president today, had also expressed displeasure with the resolution.

"I think that adhering to the Clinton model would have been my preference," Hawley told NBC News earlier Tuesday.

In President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, both sides wound up presenting their case over three days but had no restriction on the number of days over which they could use the 24 hours allotted to them.

McConnell also tweaked another controversial provision that could have barred all the evidence against Trump gathered by the House Democrats' inquiry from being entered into the Senate record.

Under the resolution by read by the Senate clerk on Tuesday, the evidence now will be admitted automatically unless there's an objection, rather than requiring a pro-active vote to admit it.

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