US Senate votes to block witnesses at Trump impeachment trial, paving way for acquittal

Issued on: 01/02/2020 – 00:52Modified: 01/02/2020 – 01:00

The U.S. Senate on Friday voted against calling witnesses and collecting new evidence in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, clearing the way for Trump's almost certain acquittal in the coming days.

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By a vote of 51-49, the Republican-controlled Senate stopped Democrats' drive to hear testimony from witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton, who is thought to have first-hand knowledge of Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Those actions prompted the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives to formally charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in December.

That made Trump only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. He denies wrongdoing and has accused Democrats of an "attempted coup."

The Senate is almost certain to acquit Trump of the impeachment charges, as a two-thirds Senate majority is required to remove Trump and none of the chamber's 53 Republicans have indicated they will vote to convict.

In Friday's vote on witnesses, only two Republicans, Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, broke with their party and voted with Democrats.

"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," Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters.

Trump is seeking re-election in a Nov. 3 vote. Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face him.

The timing of that final vote was unclear.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that he aims to conclude the trial "in the coming days."

Republican Senator Mike Braun said the Senate would work next Monday to Wednesday, aiming for a final vote on Wednesday.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the trial should end as soon as possible. "The cake is baked and we just need to move as soon as we can to get it behind us," he told reporters.

Friday's vote on witnesses came hours after the New York Times reported new details from an unpublished book manuscript written by Bolton in which the former aide said Trump directed him in May to help in a pressure campaign to get Ukraine to pursue investigations that would benefit Trump politically.

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