The Republican-majority Senate has rejected Democrats’ demand for additional witnesses in the impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump, paving the way for the likely acquittal verdict expected sometime next week.
Senators voted 51-49 not to call on more witnesses beyond the 18 that testified in the proceedings led by the House Democrats last year.
Two Republicans, Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), joined the Democrats in calling for additional witnesses – such as former national security adviser John Bolton. The rest of the GOP sided with the president’s lawyers, who argued that all the relevant testimonies and documents should have been produced during the proceedings in the House, which ended on December 18, 2019 with a partisan vote to impeach Trump.
In a resolution approved by a party line vote of 53-47, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) called for a Senate recess next week, compelling lawmakers to remain in Washington until Wednesday for the final impeachment vote, after the president’s State of the Union address and the Iowa caucus.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) reacted to the vote by saying that having a trial with “no witnesses, no documents” would make it a “sham” and that any acquittal of Trump would therefore be invalid.
Had Schumer prefaced that with “additional,” he would have been technically correct, as the Senate did consider the documents and statements of 17 witnesses submitted by the House as part of the proceedings there. The deposition of one more witness remained classified.
Trump’s lawyers had noted that the House managers said they would object if any additional evidence or documents were introduced during the Senate proceedings, and had to reserve their answers to what was in evidence already introduced, or in public record.
The witness vote was seen as a barometer of how many Republicans may have been convinced by the House Democrats that Trump had actually abused power and obstructed Congress – the charges on which he was impeached in the House.