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WASHINGTON – The Senate voted Friday to reject subpoenas for witnesses or documents in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, clearing the way for a vote on the verdict.
The largely party-line vote of 51-49 was expected. The 47 Democrats needed at least four Republicans to join them to call witnesses. Only two Republicans – Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah – had announced they would support calling witnesses.
Democrats sought testimony from four officials, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who each declined invitations to testify during the House inquiry.
– Bart Jansen
Senate voting on whether to allow witnesses at Trump trial
The Senate is voting on whether to subpoena witnesses or documents in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
The Democratic effort to hear from witnesses and retrieve documents is expected to be rejected, based on how senators have said they will vote.
Democrats seek testimony from four officials, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. But because a majority of the Senate sets trial policy, the 47 Democrats need at least four Republicans to join them in calling witnesses.
Only two Republicans – Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah – have announced they will support calling witnesses. Two other potential swing votes – GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – said they would vote against witnesses.
– Bart Jansen
Trump attorney: Dem. case against president ‘defective’
President Donald Trump’s defense team argued Friday during his impeachment trial that the Senate doesn’t need to call more witnesses because the case from House Democrats is defective, but that calling witnesses could permanently damage relations between Congress and the presidency.
“These articles of impeachment on their face are defective,” said Patrick Philbin, deputy White House counsel.
House Democrats have argued that witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton are crucial to the case because they could provide first-hand information about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
But Philbin noted that disputes about witnesses are typically settled before trials, not in the midst of them. He argued that no witnesses were necessary because the accusation that Trump abused the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival was too vague to enforce.
“The theory of abuse of power that they have framed in the first article of impeachment would do grave damage to the separation of powers under our Constitution because it would become so malleable, they can pour into it anything they want to find illicit motives for some perfectly permissible action,” Philbin said.
‘The Russians are coming’::And other moments from a busy day in Congress and the impeachment trial
Philbin argued that the accusation of obstruction was illegitimate because Trump was simply exercising his constitutional rights to protect the release of information in defying congressional subpoenas.
Philbin noted that House Democrats already provided transcripts from depositions with 17 witnesses, including 12 who testified at hearings. The House managers played 192 video clips from 13 witnesses, he said. And Democrats provided the Senate with 28,000 pages of documents to support their case.
But Philbin said it would be dangerous for the Senate to call witnesses in the midst of a trial because it would expose future presidents to weak accusations.
“Here, to show up not having done the work, and to expect that work to be done in the Senate, by this body, has grave consequences for the institutional interests of this body,” Philbin said.
– Bart Jansen
Senators still taking notes on the floor
Democratic House impeachment managers mainly argued for the necessity of witnesses during their closing arguments as more Republicans came out Friday morning with statements saying they will not vote to hear from witnesses.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Doug Jones, D-Ala., who are undecided Democratic votes on the final vote to acquit, paid close attention to House manager Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, scribbling lots of notes.
At one point when House manager Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., was speaking, there were at least 19 open GOP seats.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., another unknown vote on acquittal, was gazing intensely at lead manager Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., as he wrapped up the closing arguments with an impassioned speech.
A McConnell aide handed Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a note. Collins, who last night in a statement said she wanted to witnesses, then passed the note to her desk-neighbor, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who said this morning she did not want witnesses. The two then whispered back-and-forth.
The chamber was completely silent as Schiff declared, “Because whether you have a fair trial or no trial at all depends on whether you’re a person of power and influence like Donald J. Trump. The body will die, the clock will run down and our government becomes arbitrary. The importance of a fair trial here is not less than every courtroom in America, it is greater than any courtroom in America, because we set the example for America.”
– Savannah Behrmann
Schumer: There is no deal to end trial
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he has no agreement with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about how the Senate trial of President Donald Trump will be concluded.
“We do not want this rushed through,” Schumer said. “We do not want it in the dark of night.”
House managers and Trump’s defense team are arguing Friday over whether to call witnesses. But other debate might follow.
“We are going to use whatever power we have to prevent it from being rushed through,” Schumer said. “But right now there is no agreement.”
– Bart Jansen
Trump aides say his State of the Union has a theme: “optimism”
Sure, the Senate is holding an impeachment trial and political tensions are high, but White House officials say President Donald Trump will seek to strike an upbeat tone when he delivers his State of the Union speech next week.
Previewing the address on Friday, Trump administration officials said the working title of the annual address is the “Great American Comeback” and the tone will be one of “relentless optimism.”
In general, Trump will focus on five general areas: The economy and trade, working families, health care, immigration and national security. One specific part of the speech will deal with the “school choice” issue, aides said.
Will he mention impeachment? Aides wouldn’t say, adding that it depends in part on whether or not the trial is over by speech time on Tuesday night.
State of the Union:Trump to make ‘school choice’ a major topic at State of the Union address
The aides also discussed the speech on condition of anonymity because it is still being developed and could change depending on the news. “Events always happen,” one official said.
They also would not say whether Trump plans to mention another divisive topic: The upcoming presidential election.
“No speech is ever final until it is delivered,” the official said.
– David Jackson
Sen. Barrasso lays out what’s next
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told reporters the process for the rest of Friday would involve the introduction of a resolution organizing the final part of the trial.
After the vote on witnesses, Barrasso said the resolution laying out the end of the trial would be introduced.
“There will be a simple resolution like that organizing resolution,” he explained, referring to the resolution setting up rules for the trial passed in the early hours of Jan. 22.
“And once that is finally gone through all the amendment process and passed then we’ll have a much better idea how much time for closing arguments,” he said.
Barrasso said timing tonight “depends on what Sen. Schumer wants to bring forth” in terms of amendments.
– Nicholas Wu
Lawyers arrive at Capitol to demand ‘impartial justice’
Hundreds of lawyers joined together in silence as they marched in a single file line from the U.S. Capitol to the steps of the Supreme Court to demand senators carry out their “duty to do impartial justice” in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
The lawyers gathered at the Supreme Court to hear remarks from Barbara Arnwine, former executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law.
“We have come here today even though it’s cold outside, but we’ve come here today because burden in our hearts is a desire for justice,” Arnwine told the crowd.
Traci Feit Love, founder of Lawyers for Good Government, said she was proud of the large turnout and those who traveled long distances on short notice to make their voices heard.
Rebecca Young was one of the long-distance travelers who came from Massachusetts “to hold senators accountable to the oath they swore.”
“It’s incredibly important to me and to future of this country to do everything we can to try and ensure that the U.S. Senate actually holds a meaningful impeachment trial,” Young said.
Following the silent march and press conference, the lawyers delivered signed letters to Senate offices.
The letters, which were signed by over 2,000 people, calls for senators to determine the purpose and legal standards for impeachable offenses, and hear all relevant evidence.
Participants of the protest included Lawyers for Good Government, Lawyers Defending American Democracy, Lawyer Moms of America and Demand Justice.
– McKenzie Sadeghi
Schiff: ‘no’ vote on witnesses will have ‘harmful’ consequences
The lead House manager, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the Senate will nullify the congressional impeachment power if senators choose not to subpoena witnesses in the trial of President Donald Trump.
“A no vote on the question before you will have long-lasting and harmful consequences long after this impeachment trial is over,” Schiff said. “This will set a new precedent. This will be cited in impeachment trials from this point until the end of history.”
Schiff said if presidents are allowed to defy subpoenas and withhold witnesses and document during clashes with Congress, presidents will be able to avoid routine oversight and block impeachment.
“It effectively nullifies the impeachment power,” Schiff said. “I submit that will be a very dangerous and long-lasting precedent that we will all have to live with.”
– Bart Jansen
Lofgren: White House defiance of subpoenas is a ‘coverup’
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., accused President Donald Trump of engaging in a “coverup” by not handing over documents Democrats requested in the impeachment trial.
Lofgren, a House manager, said the documents go to the heart of who knew what and when in the investigation of Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. But she said the White House is hiding them.
The House subpoenaed documents about the July 25, 2019, call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as: National Security Council staffer Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s presidential policy memo in preparation for the call; any records about scheduling potential meetings between the leaders; and any notes of concern from public officials, such as handwritten notes from former national security adviser John Bolton.
She’s urging the Senate to subpoena the same documents, which Democrats think would receive more favorable treatment in federal court during an impeachment trial.
“The documents don’t lie,” said Lofgren, who was a congressional staffer during the impeachment inquiry of former President Richard Nixon and a House member during former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment. “They’re at the White House, being hidden by the president. I think it’s a coverup.”
– Bart Jansen
Garcia: Trump doesn’t get exoneration without witnesses
One of the House managers, Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, said President Donald Trump should want a fair trial because he seeks exoneration.
But she argued that a fair trial required additional witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who Democrats want to call while Trump’s defense team opposes their testimony.
“Whatever you say about this trial, there cannot be an exoneration without hearing from those witnesses,” Garcia said. “An acquittal on an incomplete record after a trial lacking witnesses and evidence will be no exoneration. It will be no vindication, not for the president, not for this chamber and not for the American people.”
Trump’s lawyers have argued the Senate shouldn’t call more witnesses because the House should have made a complete case before sending it to the Senate. Legal fights over witnesses, such as whether Trump could assert executive privilege to block testimony from Bolton, could extend the trial by months, the lawyers argued.
The defense lawyers also argued that Trump’s defiance of subpoenas wasn’t an admission of guilt because he was simply exercising his rights and protecting confidential advice from top aides for future presidents.
But Garcia said the defiance suggested he had something to hide.
“If the president is telling the truth, and he did nothing wrong, and the evidence would prove that, then we all know that he would be an enthusiastic supporter of subpoenas,” Garcia said.
– Bart Jansen
Schiff accuses Trump lawyer Cipollone of hiding evidence
The lead House prosecutor in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump accused the president’s lead defender, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, of concealing crucial information from senators after The New York Times reported Cipollone was in a key meeting involving Ukraine.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., cited a Times report Friday about former national security adviser John Bolton. Bolton wrote in a pending book that Trump asked him in early May 2019 to pave the way for a meeting between Rudy Giuliani and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to the story. Cipollone attended the meeting, according to the Times report.
Schiff noted that Cipollone had accused House Democrats of withholding evidence in the case. Schiff suggested that Cipollone was hiding information as the leader of Trump’s defense and a potential witness in the case.
“He said all the facts should come out. Well, there’s a new fact that indicates that Mr. Cipollone was among those who were in the loop,” Schiff said.
Schiff argued that the revelation was another reason for the Senate to subpoena witnesses such as Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who was also reportedly in the meeting.
Schiff acknowledged that Trump denied the meeting ever took place. Bolton wrote that he never made the call. And Giuliani said he never made the trip. But Schiff argued it was another reason to hear Bolton testify.
“Let’s find out. Let’s put John Bolton under oath. Let’s find out who’s telling the truth,” Schiff said. “A trial is supposed to be a quest for the truth. Let’s not fear what we will learn. As Mr. Cipollone said, let’s make sure all the facts come out.”
Two legal ethics experts said Friday that Cipollone appears to have been in an untenable dual role — both lawyer and witness.
If the report in Bolton’s manuscript is true, Cipollone should have been a fact witness at the impeachment trial and not a lawyer, said Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University School of law and author of “Regulation of Lawyers: Problems of Law and Ethics.”
In a typical trial, Gillers said, a judge would have required Cipollone to reply to the Jan. 21 letter from House impeachment managers calling on him to disclose firsthand information connected to his arguments as Trump’s lawyer “so that the Senate and Chief Justice can be apprised of any potential ethical issues, conflicts, or biases.”
If a judge were to decide Cipollone could be called as a witness, “he could not have been on the trial team,” Gillers said in an email to USA TODAY.
“A lawyer who should testify but instead acts as a trial lawyer is in effect a stealth witness,” Giller said. “He can use what he knows as a witness to shape his trial advocacy, but he is not under oath or subject to cross-examination.”
Cipollone didn’t speak during the hours of debate about whether to call witnesses in the trial, leaving that to Philbin and Jay Sekulow.
Ellen Yaroshefsky, executive director of a legal ethics institute at Hofstra University School of Law, said Cipollone should have withdrawn from Trump’s trial team.
“As soon as there’s an allegation that there was a (White House) conversation like this, you should recuse yourself. You can’t be a lawyer and a witness about a substantial issue” in the case, Yaroshefsky said in a phone interview.
– Bart Jansen and Kevin McCoy
Murkowski says she’s a ‘no’ vote on calling witnesses at Trump trial
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, announced Friday she will not vote to call witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, virtually assuring that Democrats won’t have the 51 votes needed to hear from former national security adviser John Bolton or others.
“The House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed. I carefully considered the need for additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings of its process, but ultimately decided that I will vote against considering motions to subpoena,” Murkowski said in a statement.
Murkowski was the last of a handful of Republicans who had expressed a potential openness to witnesses.
That likely sets up a 51-49 split in the closely divided chamber against considering additional evidence. Democrats need four Republicans to side with them to continue the trial.
After two other pivotal senators – Maine’s Susan Collins and Utah’s Mitt Romney -announced late Thursday they wanted witnesses, swing vote Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said he did not.
The announcements turned all eyes on Murkowski, who told reporters as she left that Senate chamber around 11 p.m. Thursday that she was still weighing her options.
Pointing to her two volumes packed with notes, the Alaska Republican said: “I’m going to go back to my office and put eye drops in so I can keep reading.”
During Thursday’s session, Murkowski asked Trump’s defense team why senators should not call Bolton to testify. In an upcoming book, Bolton reportedly contradicts a key defense of Trump’s team: that there are no eyewitnesses to the allegation that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine to get the country to investigate Democrats.
Patrick Philbin, a deputy White House counsel, warned that agreeing to call additional witnesses would establish new standards for impeachment, if the House can send “half-baked” cases and leave the Senate to complete the investigation. Philbin also said Bolton hadn’t confirmed the newspaper report about what’s in his manuscript.
Trump has denied telling Bolton that the Ukraine aid was tied to investigations but ordered him not to testify in the House’s investigation.
– Marueen Groppe
More Bolton book reports drop before trial
As senators prepare for a pivotal day in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, The New York Times reported new alleged details about the president’s involvement in Ukraine.
In former national security adviser John Bolton’s upcoming book, he wrote that Trump asked him in May to make sure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would meet with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to talk about the investigations Trump wanted, the Times reported.
That request was made during an Oval Office meeting that included Giuliani, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel leading Trump’s defense team in the Senate impeachment trial.
The Times was first to report earlier that Bolton describes in the book how Trump said in August that he wanted to continue the suspension of $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine until the country helped investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Senators will vote today on whether to hear from Bolton or other witnesses. Bolton could contradict a key defense of Trump’s team: that there are no eyewitnesses to the allegation that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine to get the country to investigate Democrats.
“No matter what the results of today’s vote, I believe the truth will eventually come out,” warned Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “We could vote to see the truth in this trial, or it could come out in a few weeks or a few months. And on that day, every Republican who voted to hide the truth in an impeachment trial of the president, will have to answer for it.”
Trump, in a statement, denied Bolton’s claim:
“I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, to meet with President Zelensky. That meeting never happened.”
– Maureen Groppe and David Jackson
Sen. Sherrod Brown: GOP colleagues have ‘fear in their eyes’
For weeks, Republican senators have presented a largely unified front in public: President Donald Trump did nothing wrong regarding Ukraine and he should never have been impeached.
But Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown said he senses something different behind closed doors: many are afraid to say anything critical.
“I’ve spoken to lots of Republicans, as my colleagues have, talking to them about this,” the Ohio lawmaker told reporters at a morning news conference. “We know what they say about this president in private. We know the fear in their eyes about voting against this president,”
Brown said he’s talked to his GOP colleagues about his concerns that acquittal will encourage Trump to become “unhinged,” and that he’ll continue engaging in “reckless” foreign policy and try to steal the 2020 election.
“I ask my colleagues and all they do is shrug,” he said. “They know better.”
At the same news conference, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called Trump a “vindictive nasty president'” who goes after anyone who opposes him.
– Ledyard King
GOP Sen. Mike Enzi was only senator not to submit question
Senators just spent 16 grueling hours over two full days posing dozens of questions to Democratic House managers and President Donald Trump’s defense team during the impeachment trial.
Only one senator decided not to submit any: Republican Mike Enzi of Wyoming.
There was no reason to, his spokeswoman Rachel Vliem responded in an email when asked why.
“Senator Enzi didn’t submit any questions because he felt that the questions he had were asked by his colleagues,” she wrote.
– Ledyard King
All eyes on Murkowski as decisions looms on witnesses
After three pivotal Republican senators indicated Thursday night whether they would vote to call witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, all eyes turned to another Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
And the Alaska senator was turning to Visine.
“I’m going to go back to my office and put eye drops in so I can keep reading,” Murkowski told reporters as she left the Senate, pointing to two volumes of notes she’d taken during the trial. “I’ve been forming a lot of thoughts so that’s going to be my job now at almost 11:00.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., had just announced that he would not join with Democrats in Friday’s vote on whether to extend the trial by issuing subpoenas for witnesses and documents.
“There is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense,” Alexander said.
Two other key GOP senators – Maine’s Susan Collins and Utah’s Mitt Romney – had said they did want to learn more.
“I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity,” Collins said.
Because a majority of the Senate sets policy in the trial, the 47 Senate Democrats need at least four of the 53 Republicans to support subpoenas to summon witnesses or seek documents, as House managers have urged.
If Murkowski votes for witnesses and no other senator crosses party lines, that would set up a 50-50 tie. It’s not clear whether Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, would break the tie.
If Murkowski decides she’s heard enough, that likely sets up a 51-49 vote against witnesses.
Murkowski offered a hint about her thinking when she asked Trump’s defense team Thursday why the Senate shouldn’t call Bolton.
“This dispute about material facts weighs in favor of calling additional witnesses with direct knowledge,” Murkowski said in the written question, read by Roberts.
In an upcoming book, Bolton reportedly contradicts a key aspect of Trump’s defense argued by his lawyers in the Senate trial: that there are no witnesses who have linked Trump’s withholding of military aid to Ukraine to investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden or a debunked theory about Ukraine meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Patrick Philbin, a deputy White House counsel, warned that agreeing to call additional witnesses would establish new standards for impeachment, if the House can send “half-baked” cases and leave the Senate to complete the investigation. Philbin also said Bolton hadn’t confirmed the newspaper report.
“It will do grave damage to this body as an institution to say that the proceedings in the House don’t have to really be complete,” Philbin said. “That’s not the way that this chamber should allow impeachments to be presented to it.”
Trump has denied telling Bolton that the Ukraine aid was tied to investigations but ordered him not to testify in the House’s investigation.
– Maureen Groppe
Pompeo demurs on White House visit for Ukraine’s Zelensky
“It seems to me it’s the other way around. We have excellent relations between our countries,” Zelensky said during a joint news conference with Pompeo in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
Pompeo described Ukraine as a “bulwark between freedom and authoritarianism in Eastern Europe,” but he demurred when asked if Trump would invite Zelensky to Washington for a coveted White House meeting.
“We’ll find the right time,” Pompeo said. “President Zelensky will be welcome to come to Washington when we have an opportunity to do good things for both the Ukrainian people and the American people. We’ll get it done.”
After his election last year, Zelensky sought a White House meeting as a show of U.S. support as Ukraine battles Russian aggression. Although Trump told Zelensky he would invite him, White House officials never gave Ukrainian officials a date.
In the article of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power, House Democrats have accused Trump of using a White House visit and U.S. military assistance as leverage in his effort to coerce Zelensky into opening investigations into a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
On Friday, Pompeo denied the Trump administration has set any conditions on Ukraine. And during his impeachment trial in the Senate, Trump’s defense lawyers have stressed that Zelensky had a personal meeting with Trump last fall as the Ukraine controversy was dominating headlines; the two leaders met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
– Deirdre Shesgreen and Kim Hjelmgaard
Trump: Trial ‘very boring to watch’
The TV critic in chief has issued his review of his Senate impeachment trial.
“It’s very boring to watch,” President Donald Trump told Fox News Thursday night. “I have to say that it’s very boring.”
Trump, a former reality television star, told Fox News’ Peter Doocy that he has watched “a little bit” of the trial.
Asked if he has any concern about the trial, Trump responded that he has “great confidence in the Republicans and the Republican Senate.”
“And I know they’re going to be fair,” Trump said.
The GOP controls the Senate, with a 53-47 advantage over Democrats in the chamber.
– Maureen Groppe
Report: Bolton encourages others to speak their truth
As the Senate gets ready to decide whether to hear from former national security adviser John Bolton in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Bolton reportedly encouraged others who have served Trump not to be afraid to speak out.
Television station KXAN in Austin, Texas., reported that Bolton spoke at a private event there where he defended former diplomatic and state department officials who testified during the House impeachment inquiry.
Bolton also said that others should feel free to talk without retribution, the station reported. Testifying to what they think is true is the exact opposite of being destructive to the system of government, he reportedly said.
Bolton’s soon-to-be-published book reportedly alleges Trump demanded Ukraine investigate Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, in exchange for foreign aid.
White House security officials this week threatened to block the book’s publication unless Bolton deletes information they deemed classified.
Bolton’s attorney has disputed that anything in the book “could reasonably be considered classified.”
– Maureen Groppe
Judgment day for Trump?
Friday is shaping up to be judgment day for President Donald Trump.
The GOP-controlled Senate could wrap up the impeachment trial for Trump and acquit him, or decide to prolong the proceedings – possibly for weeks – by calling witnesses to testify. That would postpone a final vote on whether to remove him from office.
Thursday ended with the second round of questions being asked but with no certainty to how senators would vote on adding witnesses.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other GOP leaders have balked at the idea of more witnesses, notably John Bolton. In his forthcoming book, Trump’s former national security adviser writes that the president told him to withhold military aid to Ukraine until Ukraine announced political investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Democrats, who control 47 of the chamber’s 100 seats, have been trying to convince at least four Republican senators to join them in demanding Bolton and other administration witnesses appear to discuss the president’s conduct regarding Ukraine.
If Democrats fail, the third impeachment of a president in U.S. history will end like the previous two.
The House on Dec. 18 impeached Trump on two articles – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – after hearings by the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees into whether he tried to leverage the aid to Ukraine in exchange for digging up dirt on the Bidens.
The Senate trial began Jan. 21 with House Democratic lawmakers acting as prosecutors laying out the case against Trump over three days. Trump’s lawyers then began their defense of the president on Saturday and wrapped up Tuesday. As required by Senate rules, both sides – Republican and Democratic senators – were given a chance to pose follow-up questions to the Democratic House managers and Trump’s defense team on Wednesday and Thursday.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, saying he had a duty to make sure any country receiving aid is meeting its obligations and that impeachment over this issue would weaken any president’s ability to carry out policy. His lawyers and political allies also say this impeachment effort lacks merit because no specific crime is being alleged.
Democrats contend Trump never cared about corruption in Ukraine until he saw Joe Biden emerge as the biggest threat to his 2020 reelection. The withholding of money in order to get Ukraine to announce the investigations and weaken Biden in the process is exactly the kind of “high crime” that the nation’s founding fathers were referencing when they created the impeachment mechanism.
Whatever the outcome, the process has left raw feelings on both sides of the aisle.
“Like war, impeachment is hell, or at least presidential impeachment is hell,” Trump lawyer Ken Starr, who led the investigation that led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment more than 20 years ago, told senators Monday. “Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment, including members of this body, full well understand that a president impeachment is tantamount to domestic war.”
– Ledyard King