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Trump Impeachment Trial to Remain Devoid of Witnesses

January 31, 2020, 3:50 PM HST
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Donald Trump

The United States Senate will not hear from witnesses as part of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, a decision that likely guarantees the president’s acquittal.

US senators, who serve as the jury in an impeachment trial, voted 51-49 Friday not to receive witness testimony as part of the proceedings. The vote was cast largely along party lines, with only two Republican senators breaking rank in favor of calling witnesses — Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine.

Former national security adviser John Bolton reportedly admitted in a yet-to-be-published book that Trump asked him to help pressure Ukraine into investigating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter by withholding nearly $400 million in military aid.

Bolton claims Trump requested he set a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Rudy Guliani, former New York City mayor and Trump’s personal attorney. The purpose of the meeting was allegedly to persuade Zelensky into investigating the Bidens.

Bolton further claims that the president’s ask came during a meeting, which was also attended by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Mick Mulvaney, the president’s acting chief of staff.

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Bolton said he never reached out to Zelensky on the president’s behalf.

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Trump denied Bolton’s claims, saying the “meeting never happened.”

House Democrats who led the charge to impeach Trump have accused the president of trying to leverage the military funding, which was crucial to Ukraine due to its continued involvement in a protracted period of conflict with Russia, as a means to influence the 2020 presidential election.

The sum of Trump’s alleged actions constituted two articles of impeachment, accusers said — one for abuse of power and another for obstruction of justice.

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Despite potentially damning testimony from Bolton and other witnesses who could have been called, Republicans said they had all the information they needed to render a verdict.

Democrats were upset with the results Friday, some referring to the actions of their Republican counterparts as a coverup.

In a joint statement, House impeachment managers, who act as the prosecuting attorneys during impeachment trials, decried the decision.

“Senators chose … to set a dangerous precedent that will have long-lasting repercussions for the United States Congress, the balance of powers and our democracy as a whole,” they said.

Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, was a potential swing vote. Had she voted to subpoena witnesses, the resulting tally would have ended up 50-50. That outcome would have left Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts to make a tie-breaking decision.

However, Murkowski ultimately voted not to hear from witnesses. She offered an explanation by way of a statement.

“The House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed,” she said. “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.”

A vote to remove Trump from the Oval Office will take place sometime next week. Removal from the presidency would require a two-thirds majority vote. Most expect those pushing for impeachment to fall several votes shy of the necessary total.

Trump is only the third president in US history to be impeached. No president has ever been removed from office, though Richard Nixon resigned the presidency after his impeachment, which followed the Watergate scandal of 1972.

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