THE SENATE HAS VOTED “NO WITNESSES”
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Friday voted to block any witnesses from being called in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, a move that will mark the beginning of the end of the third Senate trial for a president in US history.
The vote to acquit the President is a forgone conclusion — but its timing remains up in the air, and it could slip past Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.
The Senate voted 51-49 to defeat a motion to allow subpoenas for witnesses and documents, with two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, joining Democrats to back extending the trial.
The Senate went into an extended break after the debate on the witness vote concluded but before the vote, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer huddled on the floor with their staffs to discuss a path forward. The vote happened shortly after 5:30 p.m. ET.
Democrats had hoped to entice more other Senate Republicans to join them to hear from witnesses — especially in the wake of revelations from the draft book manuscript of former national security adviser John Bolton — but one by one the Senate Republicans said they were ready to end the trial.
Their reasons differed. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said in a statement: “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.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, meanwhile, said the House managers had proven their case that Trump withheld US aid while pushing for an investigation into his political rivals. “The question is whether you apply capital punishment to every offense. And I think in this case, I think the answer is no, let the people make that decision,” Alexander said Friday.
Following the witness vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to move forward a final acquittal vote — but the road to get there is rocky, and looks likely to extend into next week.
When the final vote does occur to acquit the President, it will mark the end of a remarkable, whirlwind four-month impeachment that began when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry on September 24, leading to the President’s impeachment on two articles — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — less than three months later.
After a month delay, the Senate trial began less than two weeks ago. The House managers, led by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, presented a detailed case arguing they had overwhelming evidence that Trump withheld $400 million in US security aid and a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky while he pressured Kiev to open investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
“If the Senate allows President Trump’s obstruction to stand, it effectively nullifies the impeachment power,” Schiff said Friday. “It will allow future presidents to decide whether they want their misconduct to be investigated or not, whether they would like to participate in an impeachment investigation or not.”
The President’s team argued there was no wrongdoing — but also that even if there was a quid pro quo, it was within the President’s rights if it was in the national interest.
“The problem with the case, the problem with their position, is even with all of those witnesses, it doesn’t prove up an impeachable offense. The articles fail,” the President’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow said. “They got the wish of the impeachment by Christmas, and that is goal. But now they want you to do the work they failed to do.”