Senators voted 49-51 on a motion to call witnesses and subpoena documents in the president's trial. C-SPAN
Senators voted 49-51 on a motion to call witnesses and subpoena documents in the president’s trial. C-SPAN
Senators voted 49-51 on a motion to call witnesses and subpoena documents in the president’s trial. C-SPAN

Washington – The U.S. Senate voted largely along party lines Friday to deny Democrats a chance to question  witnesses at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

That vote prompted Democrats, including Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, to call the impeachment trial a “sham” and a “cover-up.”

“If the trial is rigged to keep hidden the most damming, most important, most relevant evidence, then it’s not a trial,” Murphy said.

Blumenthal said, “I was so deeply disappointed and dismayed to see such partisan divide, such a betrayal of our constitutional obligation.”

Every Republican in the Senate, except Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, voted against allowing new documents or new witnesses.

The 51-49 vote means the Senate will now move to vote on two articles of impeachment, abuse of power and contempt of Congress that stem from charges Trump withheld U.S. military aid to Ukraine to pressure Kiev to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. It’s expected the president will be acquitted of both charges.

But that vote will not happen before Wednesday. There will be several votes on Democratic amendments Friday evening. Then the trial will reconvene on Monday.

The House managers who prosecuted the case and the president’s legal team will give closing arguments. Then each senator will have the right to speak before votes are taken on the articles, a process that usually occurs behind closed doors, outside the view of television cameras, the press and others.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bowed to a request from Democrats to have their arguments heard and agreed to allow the speeches to occur in public, while the Senate is not holding the trial, from Monday through Wednesday.

“The Senate deliberations should be fully open to the public,” Blumenthal  said. “After a White House cover-up and a sham Senate trial, the very least we owe the American people is complete transparency in how we are contemplating this hugely consequential decision.”

The White House wanted the trial to wrap up before Sunday, when the president is scheduled to give an interview with Fox News, or at the very latest before he delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday evening.

The vote on witnesses Friday came after several hours of debate and after new disclosures from the most important witness the Democrats had hoped to hear from – former national security adviser John Bolton.

According to a story in the New York Times Friday about a manuscript of a yet-unpublished book authored by Bolton, Trump asked the former national security adviser to call Volodymyr Zelensky, who had recently won election as president of Ukraine, to ensure that Zelensky would meet with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.

At the time, Giuliani was planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss the investigations Trump sought into Biden and his son Hunter. Bolton wrote that he never made the call.

According to the Times’ account, another witness Senate Democrats wanted to question was also in the room when Trump spoke to Bolton — acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Giuliani and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is now leading the president’s impeachment defense, were also in the room, according to the Times story.

The president denied the meeting ever happened.

Murphy almost upended Democratic efforts to hear witnesses at the impeachment trial by publicly opposing his colleagues’ idea to have Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over Trump’s trial, break a tie vote on the issue. Democrats believed Roberts would be more likely to vote in favor of calling witnesses than Vice President Mike Pence.

Murphy said that while the U.S. Constitution mandates the vice president cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate “it’s silent on that matter in an impeachment trial.” That, Murphy said, led him to believe Roberts should not vote.

But Murphy was spared from going against his party’s interests when Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, considered a  swing vote, voted “no” on the witness issue.

Murkowski said the U.S. House sent the Senate articles of impeachment that were “rushed and flawed.” Murkowski also said she was concerned about having a 50-50 vote that would put pressure on Roberts.

“It has also become clear some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the Chief Justice,” she said in a statement. “I will not stand for, nor support that effort.”

Blumenthal supported having Roberts break a tie in the Senate, but said the chief justice would face “blowback,” at least in the short-term, for doing so.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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39 Comments

  1. democrats are focused on and obsessed about the idea of proving that trump was trying to pressure ukraine to investigate biden but thats not what the senate trial is all about !
    the main purpose of the trial is to determine whether or not the charges are considered high crimes that warrant removal from office !
    Senators dont need any additional witnesses simply because most of them are already convinced that trump did try to get ukraine to investigate biden , but in their opinion what trump did simply does not qualify as a offense that warrants removal from office especially since no laws were broken and the elections are only months away . the other concern is that trumps call only constitutes a problem if biden indeed did nothing wrong but at this point it is not clear whether or not biden was involved in anything improper !

    1. First, many legal/Constitutional experts have opined that impeachment does not require violation of criminal law. There’s ample evidence of Trump’s misconduct regarding Ukraine. To me, it is astounding that Republicans do not believe there is anything sufficiently improper about withholding military aid from an ally as leverage to get that ally — a foreign government — to investigate a US citizen who is Trump’s political rival. Second, the GAO very recently issued a report that the Trump administration DID, IN FACT, violate federal law in putting a hold on that Ukraine aid. Third, there is NO evidence at all anywhere that either Biden did anything improper. So therefore, Trump’s call DOES constitute a problem, and it is worthy of impeachment. And lastly, it should not matter that elections are only months away — or are you (and the Trump defense) implying that a president can only be impeached and removed from office in a second term, and never a first term?

      1. Yes, it was released — AFTER it was secretly put on hold, contrary to the advice of multiple agencies and advisors, without explanation and without notice to Congress. And it was released only AFTER the whistleblower complaint was referred to Congress and became public. And if Trump were REALLY concerned about giving hundreds of millions in military aid to a corrupt country, as he and his supporters claim, why did he release the money without ANY corruption reform in Ukraine? And why doesn’t any of this concern Trump supporters?

      2. Jim, if Obama did this would you be for or against impeachment? Why won’t anybody answer this question?
        Just say it. You would absolutely think Obama should be impeached. Fox News would be going insane for impeachment.

      3. ehhh – i dont think no one would really care about withholding Ukraine aid if Obama did this because we all know it will never make the news – so very few people would even know about it. There would be no “whistleblower” because of the left leaning FBI and DOJ. I am more concerned and wondering why no one has questioned the millions giving to Iran by Obama. We all know that all that money went to fund terrorism. That just seemed to disappear in the news as well.

      4. Would you please cite your source for “the millions giving [sic] to Iran by Obama”? And, by the way, please include the source of the money and the circumstances under which it was “giving”. Thank you.

      5. Yup, I knew it. Did you even read beyond the headline? Of course not. Your comment implies that Obama “gave” Iran millions of US taxpayer dollars. The reality is quite different — and facts matter. It was part of the Iran nuclear deal and part of a “settlement resolving claims at an international tribunal at The Hague over a failed arms deal under the time of the Shah.” And “The $400 million was Iran’s to start with, placed into a US-based trust fund to support American military equipment purchases in the 1970s. When the Shah was ousted by a 1979 popular uprising that led to the creation of the Islamic Republic, the US froze the trust fund. Iran has been fighting for a return of the funds through international courts since 1981.”

      6. They won’t answer the question for one reason and one reason only: their hypocrisy would be revealed.

      7. And you know this how? By reading Deroy Murdock’s op-ed on Fox News? The same guy who ended his column with this bit of partisan nonsense: “In contrast, Democrat deity Obama sent Ukraine pillows, blankets, and hot cocoa.”?

        The Democrats he cited did NOT vote specifically against Ukraine aid. They voted against an entire defense spending bill totaling hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars, of which the Ukraine aid was a small part. Can you cite any reliable information showing that any Democrats voted against the bill specifically because of the aid to Ukraine?

      8. “…there is NO evidence at all anywhere that either Biden did anything improper.”
        Of course there isn’t – no investigation has been done.

      9. CT Yankee,
        Political cronyism has been going on since the cavemen days. Would you like me to list politician family members who have gotten jobs over the years that they had no business getting, but got because of their names? My God, list would be endless. And both sides of the aisle, obviously. And by the way, have to look no further than Ivanka and Jared. Jared is, in essence, Secretary of State of the United States of America! Obviously, no qualifications.

      10. Hmmm. Interesting. So, if there were absolutely nothing to go on, no indication whatsoever of any misconduct, no suspicion, no probable cause, no complaint, no whistleblower, no nothing… what would you think if somebody started investigating YOU? Because, after all, we don’t know whether you have done anything wrong, because no investigation has been done.

  2. What I witnessed is democrats not getting there way in there attempt to get Trump out of office. Now there going to scream and cry the senate was unfair.

  3. 18 witnesses wasn’t enough? Slam dunk I thought. I would like to get the transcript of the IG testimony. Strangely missing document from the Star Chamber Stalinist Kangaroo Court.

    Just an oversight, I’m sure

  4. Well, that’s that. If you can’t get impeached for that, no one ever will. Trump violated the one thing the Founding Fathers feared the most. Now a President can forever do whatever they want. Trump unleashed. This is going to be one extremely ugly year. The Senate is now nothing more than just a collection of yes men and women. To top it off they had no respect for the overwhelming majority of the citizens of America who believed in the obvious need to hear and see more evidence that they buried, not that you actually needed more.
    The American public has suffered the ultimate disrespect. 11 million more American citizens did not vote for Trump than did in 2016. $11 million!!
    The Senate majority Republicans represent approximately 15 million less Americans than the Democrat minority. And the Senate Republicans explanations and justifications. were disgustingly pitiful.

    1. President Clinton lied under oath. Remember? Yet his second term was actually a move to center and invigorated the country. Anyway, it’s over. And I like the feeling of your phrase “Trump unleashed”. I can’t wait.

      1. Apples and oranges. While lying under oath is clearly wrong, let’s not forget it was about whether or not Clinton had an affair. Not a national security issue. Not an issue implicating the integrity of our elections.

      2. NoNonsense,
        a Trump supporter a few weeks ago said to me “yeah……well what about Chappaquiddick”……….
        Masters of distraction.
        I had to remind her that Teddy Kennedy, on top of everything, wasn’t President.

      3. I’m sorry sir, but the issue in both wasn’t about an affair or integrity of our elections. It also wasn’t an issue of national security.

        The underlying issue in both cases is about ethics and the lack thereof. Both Clinton and Trump… By not removing Clinton, the Senate said it was ok to lie to the country as President, aka, have no ethical responsibility for what you say. The Trump era Senate has again went to a low bar about elections, but make no mistake, both cases are a lack of ethics in the person holding the office. You can’t gloss over what Mr. or Mrs. Clinton did in their times calling their behaviors something better.

      4. The U.S. has never seen , in the history of our nation, a more dishonest corrupt President as Trump. He makes Bill Clinton, or anyone else I can think of, look like ethical exemplars. And there will be a lot more to come out over time, including when he’s out of office. The House of Cards will fall. Has to; the sheer weight. I’m guessing Trump has more skeletons in his closet than anyone alive.

      5. Trump lied 47 times last week alone. And an estimated 15,000 outright liesmajor truth distortions since taking office.And
        Great example for our children.

      6. Molly,
        First tell me where you get your information. If it’s just Facebook and Fox news and Trump’s twitter, I can’t be bothered wasting my time. You wouldn’t believe anyways.

      7. I am asking you to list them out – you mentioned lying 47 times and we all want to know what they are. Don’t try to hide behind deflection – you said it – produce it or stop posting.

      8. Actually, The Fact Checker’s analysis shows 16,241 false or misleading statements in 1,095 days (updated January 19th). That’s an average of 14.83 PER DAY.

    2. What overwhelming majority – last CNN poll was 49 to 48 so what majority are you talking about?

      Everything in your post is opinion which is basically what the house trail was. An opinion at best. Scholars as witnesses? They were grasping as straws from day one.

      The ugly year your referring to is returning all of us 20 to 30% in 401ks.

      1. Tuesday, January 28th CNN Poll – 75% of registered voters think witnesses should testify. This includes 49% of Republicans, 75% of Independents and 95% of Democrats.
        In poll, almost half of registered voters (47%) want the Senate to remove Trump. And this is with NO witnesses. If witnesses were allowed, I’ guessing that 47% goes up significantly.
        When I said “overwhelming majority”, to me 75% is overwhelming majority.
        No idea the 49 to 48 is you are referring to.. And no idea what “house trail” refers to.
        Regarding the economy, the economy under Trump just continued the large success and momentum from Obama years. Stock market s&p index returned 57% in Obama’s first 3 years. Year 2018, by the way, U.S. Stocks posted a negative annual return. In quarter 4, after tariffs announced, markets plunged over 23%

  5. If the democrats actually did what they were elected to do instead of ignoring any and all wrongdoing by those in their party while exaggerating everything done by conservatives, maybe the country could work on reducing the polarization so prolific in the country.

  6. Also, just because a democrat says its so, doesn’t mean that “an overwhelming majority” want whatever it is they are spewing.

  7. We would expect nothing less. This impeachment was begun 3 plus years ago with the sole objective of overturning the 2016 election and preventing ‘ we the people” from re electing President Trump. in 2020. They said it out loud for goodness sake. The socialists want complete control and they know they cannot achieve it at the ballot box. Look at them…………….Put aside the hatred, resentment, name calling, assumptions, and presumptions because you are destroying our Republic from within at the most prosperous and promising time in our lifetimes.

  8. 18 witnesses were “heard” in the House aka Bunker. The leaks and cherry picking of “parts” of the testimony were before the public. Not until the President’s lawyers exposed the House’s witnesses “complete” testimony,which clearly exonerated Trump & the false impeachment, did we uncover the real “cover up” that existed from the very beginning, in manipulating and omitting testimony. It was in the House, where witnesses are called. The Senate did it’s job, the House did not. Expecting the Senate to do the job the House failed to do and then calling it “a cover up” is disingenuous at best. The “coverup” of testimony occurred but thankfully was revealed to the public.

  9. What I take exception to is attack-dog stances like the ones in this article that our elected officials from Connecticut are constantly relegated to by their party bosses or put themselves in of their own accord. So undignified! How I miss the elder statesmen demeanor of Joe Lieberman and his ilk. I say these guys start talking like adults or we trade them in for a new batch that perhaps the Democratic party won’t take for granted.

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