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Senate Rejects Efforts to Call Additional Impeachment Witnesses in 51-49 Vote

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Senate voted Friday evening to decline the calling of additional witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial, turning down Democratic-led efforts with a 51-49 vote and setting up a likely vote to acquit the president.

All but two Republicans voted against the motion, with Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine joining Democrats to ask for additional witnesses, after new allegations were reported earlier this week of an explicit quid-pro-quo detailed by Trump in August to former national security adviser John Bolton.

Democrats hoped for two more Republicans to join them in order to swing the vote towards a subpoena of Bolton, and the shift looked likely after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) reportedly told his caucus on Tuesday that at least four Republicans were willing to support the calling of more witnesses. But the vote became murky again after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Thursday that the vote for witnesses was facing an “uphill battle.”

When key “swing” Senators Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) said late Thursday and early Friday, respectively, that they would oppose the calling of additional witnesses, the momentum swung back in favor of not calling Bolton and others.

Alexander concluded that Trump’s actions were “inappropriate” in suggesting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky look into an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden, but explained that “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.”

In her decision, Murkowski cited the “partisan nature” of the process, and concluded “that there will be no fair trial in the Senate.”

After extended negotiations Friday afternoon with Schumer, McConnell announced ahead of the vote that the Senate would follow the vote with a recess, likely pushing the conclusion of the trial into next week — which would keep Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on Capitol Hill for the Iowa caucuses on Monday.

“Senators will now confer among ourselves, with the House Managers, and with the President’s counsel to determine next steps as we prepare to conclude the trial in the coming days,” McConnell said in a statement after the vote.

Schumer, speaking to reporters after the vote, called the vote a “perfidy” and “a grand tragedy.”

“America will remember this day, unfortunately, where the Senate did not live up to its responsibilities, where the Senate turned away from truth, and went along with a sham trial,” Schumer stated.

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