The legal defense team for US President Donald Trump is loaded on a bus on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan 31, 2020, as they leave after the Senate voted to not allow witnesses in the impeachment trial of Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (JACQUELYN MARTIN/AP)
The US Senate voted against seeking new evidence in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, sending the months-long inquiry into its final stages with a vote set for Wednesday to acquit the president.
Friday’s 51-49 vote blocking witnesses, one of the most consequential of the trial, fell mostly along party lines. Two Republicans -- Maine’s Susan Collins and Utah’s Mitt Romney -- joined all 47 Senate Democrats and independents in voting for additional testimony and documents. Two Republicans who had considered voting for witnesses -- Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski -- voted against the motion.
Two Republicans who had considered voting for witnesses -- Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski -- voted against the motion
Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said that with the decision not to seek more evidence, the Senate “turned away from truth and went along with a sham trial.”
“America will remember this day, unfortunately, when the Senate did not live up to its responsibilities,” Schumer said. “If the president is acquitted with no witnesses and no documents, then the acquittal has no value.”
The final vote on Trump’s conviction or acquittal will be held on Wednesday, according to a Senate resolution adopted Friday night. There won’t be a Saturday session, and the Senate will reconvene Monday at 11 am for closing arguments from House prosecutors and Trump’s defense.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Trump Friday to get his approval for this timeline, and the president agreed, according to a person familiar with their conversation.
The new schedule gives senators time before Wednesday’s final vote to publicly explain on the Senate floor how they decided whether Trump deserved to be removed from office on the House’s charges that he abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress.
The final vote on Trump’s conviction or acquittal will be held on Wednesday, according to a Senate resolution adopted Friday night
The Senate also rejected all four amendments Democrats offered Friday in a last-ditch effort to subpoena additional witnesses and documents. Before the amendment votes, Schumer sought to clear up one uncertainty that hung over the trial this week: whether Chief Justice John Roberts, the trial’s presiding officer, would cast a vote to break a tie.
Roberts said he didn’t consider the historical precedent to be strong enough for him to weigh in on decisions that should be made by elected officials.
Republicans have argued that it wasn’t necessary to draw out the trial since it would take 67 votes to convict Trump in the Republican-led chamber. Even though Democrats on Friday said they were resigned to Trump’s eventual acquittal, they said senators should be able to explain how they planned to vote.
“We feel strongly that this needs to be a fair trial and that each member gets an opportunity to say how they feel and say how they came to their decision,” said Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, a member of Democratic leadership.
'No fair trial’
The outcome of the vote on witnesses was sealed when Murkowski announced Friday that she would vote against bringing in new evidence. She was one of the last Republicans who remained publicly uncommitted.
“I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate,” Murkowski said. “I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed.”
The vote on witnesses came on the same day the New York Times reported that former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton wrote in an unpublished manuscript that the president directed his aides in May to help pressure Ukrainian officials to dig up damaging information on a Democratic rival.
That was two months before Trump asked Ukraine’s president in a phone call to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. And one of the officials present during the May discussion, according to Bolton, was White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who is leading the defense team.
Bolton was one of the main witnesses Democrats wanted to call in the trial, and he had said he’d be willing to testify under subpoena. An earlier revelation from his manuscript -- that Trump directly linked the release of military aid for Ukraine to help with digging up dirt on Democrats -- had GOP leaders scrambling to head off the chance that Democrats would get four Republican senators to agree with them.
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