President Trump Acquittal Likely

Feb 1, 2020
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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

This was a historic week in the U.S. Senate as the trial of President Donald Trump continued. And after long days and nights of arguments from both sides and questions from the senators, there came a crucial vote on whether new witnesses would be called to testify, as demanded by Senate Democrats.

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JOHN ROBERTS: The yeas are 49. The nays are 51. The motion is not agreed to.

MCCAMMON: Chief Justice John Roberts there announcing the vote tally. It was a blow for the Democrats and a victory for the president, whose acquittal is now all but certain. In a moment, we'll hear from one of the jurors in the trial, Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland. But we begin with a quick look at what's next for the impeachment trial and for Congress. And for that, I'm joined here in the studio by NPR political reporter Tim Mak.

Hi, Tim.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.

MCCAMMON: OK. So the trial is now officially in recess. What's going to happen over the next few days? And when does the Senate actually vote on whether to acquit or convict President Trump?

MAK: So the Senate is in recess over the weekend, as you mentioned, allowing some of the members of the Senate who are in the 2020 presidential race to go to Iowa and campaign if that's what they want to do. On Monday, we'll hear closing arguments from both the House impeachment managers and the president's defense team.

For the two or three following days after that up until Wednesday at 4 p.m., we'll hear senators talk about their positions on the impeachment trial. And finally, at 4:00 p.m., on Wednesday, we'll expect to have a vote on whether to acquit the president.

MCCAMMON: And up until this point, the senators have mostly had to sit quietly and listen to arguments, or they've been limited to asking questions indirectly via Justice Roberts. The president isn't likely to be convicted at this point, by all accounts. So functionally, Tim, what is the purpose of these speeches we'll be hearing from the senators?

MAK: Some members of the Senate may be interested in explaining why they weren't interested in having additional witnesses. There are a lot of senators who are in tight races. I could think of Cory Gardner, a Republican senator from Colorado. He might want to explain why he wasn't for witnesses and why, as we expect, he won't be voting to convict the president of the impeachment articles.

Or there are Democrats in tough situations, too. You think of Joe Manchin, who's a Democrat from conservative West Virginia. He may want to describe why he is going to vote the way he's going to vote.

MCCAMMON: There's been a lot of debate in recent days, as we mentioned, about the calling of witnesses. The Senate voted that down, of course. But the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, said this week that it might be a good idea for the House to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton after all of this is over. Tim, could that happen? And what would it mean for this process?

MAK: Well, the trial is not the end of this process for the president. There are a lot of unanswered questions in the minds of House Democrats and in the minds of a lot of other critics of the president. And John Bolton's book is coming out in March. There's going to be a lot of talk about what Bolton knows about the president, and particularly with regards to this alleged scheme with Ukraine. So it's very possible that House Democrats will move to subpoena John Bolton after the Senate trial is over.

MCCAMMON: Coming up this week, President Trump will deliver the State of the Union address Tuesday night in the House chamber. He's doing this, of course, as the subject of an active impeachment trial. What's the significance of that?

MAK: Well, it's interesting because he, I'm sure, feels very confident he has the votes to be exonerated on Wednesday, when the Senate does vote to acquit him, as we expect. And so while it casts a little bit of a shadow, he can also stand there and say, look - the House Democrats came after me for these allegations, and they weren't able to convince the Senate to convict me.

MCCAMMON: That's NPR's Tim Mak. Thanks for being here.

MAK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.