Republican leaders believe they have enough support to defeat Democratic proposals to include a few administration witnesses and new evidence. The Senate closed the questioning stage of the trial on Thursday and entered a phase to consider all motions.
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This is the stage at which Democrats hoped to persuade at least four GOP senators to join them and vote to include key witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton and and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
Thursday, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who’s considered one of only four likely “swing” voters, told reporters he will oppose including witnesses. Friday, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she also will vote against the Democrats’ motions.
“The House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed,” she said in a statement. “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.”
Sens. Susan Collins of Maine said she will vote to add witnesses, but it now appears Democrats have no way to succeed, as they effectively needed Collins, Alexander, Murkowski and Mitt Romney of Utah to support the push.
With the prospect of witnesses all but assured, Republicans are expected to raise a motion to acquit Trump on both articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, related to his dealings with Ukraine last year and the House inquiry that followed. Without witnesses, the trial will wrap on Friday or Saturday.
Democrats could try to prolong the trial with amendments to force Republican senators into difficult political votes.
“We’ll take a crucial vote on whether we will debate having witnesses and documents in this trial,” Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer said Thursday night. “Four Senate Republicans — just four — can ensure that we get the truth. A trial without witness and documents would render any acquittal of President Trump meaningless.”
One possible scenario Friday was a 50-50 split on the witness vote, in which case Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts could’ve cast the deciding vote. If he’d declined to vote, the motion would have failed by default.
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