There are no rules for how long impeachment processes can or should take. In the past, it’s been wrapped up in as little as four months.

It’s looking as though this impeachment could be similarly swift. But no modern impeachment has been so close to a presidential election. And despite House Democrats’ optimistic timeline that it could be done in 2019, the impeachment inquiry and any Senate trial could extend into 2020.

Here’s a look at the impeachment timeline, starting with the beginning and our best estimation of when it will wrap up, as things stand now. If you want even more details, our graphics team has a great full calendar of the inquiry.

Late September: The Trump administration withholds from Congress the whistleblower complaint alleging President Trump tried to pressure a foreign leader, prompting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to support an impeachment inquiry into the president. An inquiry was kind of already going on, but she gives it her authorization and a sharp focus: Did Trump abuse his power when negotiating with Ukraine?

In the following days, the Trump administration gives Congress the whistleblower complaint and releases a rough transcript of Trump’s July call with Ukraine’s president, in which Trump says: “I need a favor, though,” and asks Ukraine’s president to investigate the 2016 election and former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Over the course of October, Republicans and Democrats on three committees (Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight) interview more than half a dozen current and former Trump administration officials behind closed doors. Democrats decided to keep these depositions private to try to get more forthcoming answers (and deprive politicians of opportunities to grandstand in front of the cameras). Journalists often get copies of the witnesses’ opening statements and rundowns from lawmakers on what was said.

The people interviewed so far include Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine whom Trump had removed; William B. Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine; Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union; and other current and former high-level State Department and White House officials.

They testified that:

  • Yovanovitch was ousted over allegations she wasn’t loyal to Trump.
  • Officials in the White House and State Department were troubled by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani being the president’s point person on Ukraine and accused him of running a shadow foreign policy channel with political appointees.
  • Trump tried to hold up military aid and an Oval Office meeting with Ukraine’s president unless the latter publicly agreed to investigate matters involving Democrats.

All that led up to Wednesday, when more than 30 House Republicans, several of whom were authorized to sit in on the depositions, stormed the secure room in the Capitol basement to try to undermine the investigation by claiming Democrats are conducting it in secrecy.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) led a group of their Republican colleagues into a closed-door hearing on Oct. 23. (The Washington Post)

That brings us up to date, so what comes next is based on reporting and what lawmakers have said publicly will happen.

More officials are scheduled to testify next week and into November, including the National Security Council’s senior director of Russia affairs, Tim Morrison, on Oct. 31.

Mid-November, sometime before Thanksgiving: House Democrats could hold their first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry. The Post’s Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian report that after Republicans held up the hearing Wednesday, “some Democrats were feeling pressure to advance public hearings in hopes of avoiding further disruptions.”

These public hearings will be geared more toward explaining what lawmakers have already learned in private depositions, rather than trying to uncover new information in front of the cameras. Bade and Demirjian report that Democrats would call back two of their star witnesses, Taylor and Yovanovitch, who have contributed to the accusations that Trump politicized Ukraine relations for his own benefit.

Democrats also want to hear from John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser. Bolton left the White House on bad terms, and people who worked under him have testified he was frustrated by Trump’s politicization of Ukraine foreign policy.

“It’s going to be the difference between reading a dry transcript and actually hearing the story from the people who were in the room,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) told Bade and Demirjian.

Also mid-November: Expect Democrats to put together a presentation of sorts for the American public beyond public hearings on the allegations facing Trump. That means the investigative committees could write up a report on what they learned, as former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III did after his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“You have to tell the American people the story,” Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) told Bade and Demirjian. “It’ll be a combination of documents, a report and some live testimony.” But staff lawyers could lead the questioning of witnesses rather than lawmakers.

Sometime after mid-November: We’re now into Thanksgiving and beyond in this estimated timeline, and Democrats still haven’t written up articles of impeachment. That will fall to the House Judiciary Committee, which traditionally handles impeachment cases. Once it has articles of impeachment, lawmakers will vote on them in committee (this will all be happening publicly), and then there will be a (very public) vote in the full House.

After Thanksgiving, likely: When this whole thing got started in late September, some Democratic lawmakers were speculating to reporters the House could vote to impeach Trump by Thanksgiving. CNN and The Post have reported that lawmakers are thinking this might happen before Christmas instead.

And this is just the first half of impeachment. If the House impeaches Trump, the process moves over to the Senate, where he’ll be on trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that could last six days a week, for a couple of weeks or even a month.

That means it’s a real possibility Trump’s impeachment could extend into 2020, the same year he’ll be on the ballot.