WASHINGTON – 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. Republicans then began their defense on Saturday and wrapped up Tuesday. As required by Senate rules, both sides were given a chance to pose follow-up questions 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 bring 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 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.”