The U.S. Senate voted Friday not to allow new testimony and documents in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, as reports of new revelations surface from Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton.
The 51-49 vote split largely along party lines, with two Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah — voting with the Democrats.
The Senate is now in recess, at the call of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The Republican-majority Senate is widely anticipated to acquit Trump after rejecting Democratic calls for new evidence. The precise timetable for final action was unclear as the Senate began four hours of debate between House managers and Trump’s lawyers over whether to call witnesses, including Bolton.
The New York Times reported Friday that a manuscript of Bolton’s unpublished book says that Trump directed him to participate in the Republican president’s pressure campaign to get Ukrainian officials to obtain harmful information on Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter. Bolton’s manuscript reportedly says Trump issued the directive during an Oval Office discussion that included acting White House chief-of-staff Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — who is participating in the impeachment trial.
Bolton wrote that the White House conversation occurred in early May, more than two months before Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to publicly announce an investigation of Biden, a political rival Trump could potentially face in the 2020 presidential election.
Trump’s alleged directive to Bolton was previously undisclosed and would be the earliest known example of Trump trying to use the presidency for political and personal gain.
Democrats are calling for new documents and witnesses, including Bolton, who has agreed to testify if he is subpoenaed.
“Yet another reason why we ought to hear from witnesses just as we predicted,” said Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, the lead House prosecutor. “And it didn’t require any great act of clairvoyance. The facts will come out. They will continue to come out. And the question before you today is whether they will come out in time for you to make a complete and informed judgment as to the guilt or innocence of the president.”
Prospects for Democrats to enlist the support of at least four Republicans to call witnesses before a final vote on removal or acquittal of Trump dimmed considerably over the past 24 hours. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said Thursday there is no need to call witnesses to testify in the impeachment trial because Democrats have already proven Trump’s actions are “inappropriate” but not impeachable.
Alexander said in a statement late Thursday, “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. … The Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”
Another Republican who was thought likely to vote for witnesses announced before the start of Friday’s crucial session that she also saw no need to call witnesses.
“I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything,” Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said in a statement, adding, “It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed.”
Trump is accused of pressuring Zelenskiy during a July 25 call to open a corruption investigation into Biden and his son, as well as unfounded allegations that Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to try to help Democrat Hillary Clinton defeat Trump. The president allegedly withheld $391 million in military aid to Ukraine unless Zelenskiy publicly announced a probe. No evidence against the Bidens has ever surfaced.
The U.S. assistance for Ukraine was formally frozen on July 25 under a legal provision known as an apportionment.
Democrats said reaching out to a foreign power to interfere in an election is an impeachable offense. Numerous Republicans disagree.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump in December, accusing him of abusing the office of the presidency and obstructing congressional efforts to investigate his actions related to Ukraine.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has charged Democrats with leveraging the impeachment process to overturn his 2016 electoral vote victory.
Four Republican senators would have needed to join 47 Democrats and independents in the 100-member Senate to allow witness testimony and additional documents in Trump’s impeachment trial.
Next, the Senate will deliberate before voting on whether to move forward to the final vote.
The trial could continue into next week due to scheduling issues stemming from the Iowa caucuses on Monday and the president’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Trump is only the third U.S. president to be impeached and tried before the Senate. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 because of a post-Civil War dispute over states that seceded from the union.
Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 for lying to a grand jury over a sex scandal. Both Johnson and Clinton were acquitted and remained in office until the end of their terms.
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Photo “Chuck Schumer” by Senate Democrats. CC BY 2.0.