Senators expected to vote down on calling witnesses in impeachment trial
Media outlets have reported that United States Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee will oppose calliing more witnesses in President Donald Trump‘s impeachment trial, all but dashing Democratic efforts to hear more testimony. The Senate will vote on the acquittal of Mr.Trump as early as Friday.
The retiring Alexander was one of a handful of Republican senators weighing whether to hear from witnesses, including former Trump national security adviser John Bolton. In a statement late Thursday, Alexander said House Democrats had already proven their case that Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine at least in part to seek investigations into political rivals — an action Alexander called “inappropriate” but not impeachable.
“There is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the U.S. Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offence,” Alexander said.At least one Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, said she would vote for witnesses, and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is expected to join her. Without two more Yes votes from Republicans on Friday, the trial could speed to a swift conclusion.
President Trump was impeached by House of Representatives on December 19, 2019 on charges that he abused his power, jeopardizing U.S.national security. Democrats say that Mr. Trump asked a vulnerable ally to investigate former Vice-president Joe Biden and debunked theories of 2016 election interference, temporarily halting American security aid to the country as it battled Russia at its border. The second article of impeachment says President Trump then obstructed the House probe in a way that threatened the nation’s three-branch system of checks and balances.
Susan Collins, a centrist Senator announced her decision after the Senate concluded a long question-and-answer session with the House Democrats prosecuting the charges and Mr Trump’s lawyers defending him.
“The most sensible way to proceed would be for the House Managers and the President’s attorneys to attempt to agree on a limited and equal number of witnesses for each side,” she said in a statement. “If they can’t agree, then the Senate could choose the number of witnesses.”
In response to Senator Alexander and others, Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, a Congressional staffer during Watergate and now a House prosecutor, told the senators that the Nixon impeachment also started as a partisan inquiry. A bipartisan consensus emerged only after Republicans — including staunch Nixon supporters — saw enough evidence to change their minds, she said.
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After his question Thursday night, Mr. Alexander consulted with a key staff aide to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. As the senators broke for dinner Alexander and another Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, met privately.
During Senate impeachment trial Thursday’s testimony, Mr. Nadler, speaking on behalf of the House Managers included soaring pleas to the senators-as-jurors who will decide Mr. Trump’s fate, to either stop a president who Democrats say has tried to cheat in the upcoming election and will again, or to shut down impeachment proceedings that Republicans insist were never more than a partisan attack.
“Let’s give the country a trial they can be proud of,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead prosecutor for House Democrats. “Americans,” said Rep. Schiff, “know what it takes for a fair trial.” He offered to take just one week for depositions of new witnesses, sparking new discussions.
Trump attorney Eric Herschmann declared the Democrats are only prosecuting the president because they can’t beat him in 2020.
“We trust the American people to decide who should be our president,” Herschmann said. “Enough is Enough. Stop all of this.”
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“That argument — if the president says it can’t be illegal — failed when Richard Nixon was forced to resign,” Schiff told the senators. “But that argument may succeed here, now.”
“This is not a banana republic,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., rejecting the White House counsel’s suggestion there was nothing wrong with seeking foreign election interference. The president has argued repeatedly that his dealings with Ukraine have been “perfect.”
White House warned Bolton not to publish book as Senate considers calling witnesses.
In a Senate split 53-47 with a Republican majority, at least four GOP senators must join all Democrats to reach the 51 votes required to call witnesses, decide whom to call or do nearly anything else in the trial.
Chief Justice John Roberts, presiding over the chamber and fielding senators’ questions for the trial, could break a tie, but that seems unlikely.
The Chief Justice did exercise authority Thursday with a stunning rebuttal to a question posed by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky designed to expose those familiar with the still anonymous whistleblower whose complaint about Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s new president led to the Congressional impeachment inquiry in September 2019.
“The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted,” said Chief Justice Roberts.
Senators have dispatched with more than 100 queries over two days. The questions came from the parties’ leaders, the senators running for the Democratic nomination against Trump and even bipartisan coalitions from both sides of the aisle.
Trump’s team says the House’s 28,000-page case against the president and the 17 witnesses — current and former national security officials, ambassadors and others who testified in the House proceedings — are sufficient.
Instead, Trump’s lawyers focused some of their time Thursday refloating allegations against Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine while his father was vice-president.
Democrats argued President Trump’s Former National Security Advisor, John Bolton’s forthcoming book cannot be ignored. It contends first hand information that he personally heard Mr. Trump say he wanted military aid withheld from Ukraine until it agreed to investigate the Bidens — the abuse of power charge that is the first article of impeachment, at the center of the process. Mr. Trump denies saying such a thing.
The White House has blocked its officials from testifying in the proceedings and objected in a letter to Mr. Bolton’s attorney to “significant amounts of classified information” in the manuscript, including at the top secret level. Bolton resigned last September — Mr. Trump says he was fired — and he and his attorney have insisted the book does not contain any classified information.In breaking news, on Friday, Bolton’s revealing claims in his manuscript that the pressure campaign on Ukraine began two months prior to previously reported.
This is a developing story