Vote To Call Additional Witnesses Fails, Signaling Endgame Of Impeachment Trial

Jan 31, 2020
Originally published on January 31, 2020 8:15 pm
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ALISA CHANG, HOST:

It has been the overarching question for the last two weeks in the Senate - will there be witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump? Well, senators voted down that prospect today, pretty much along party lines. Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah did join with 47 Democrats, but they did not get a majority of the votes.

NPR's Tim Mak joins us now to walk through the latest developments on Capitol Hill.

Hey, Tim.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.

CHANG: So I understand that we now know more about the timeline for the rest of this trial. When are things going to wrap?

MAK: Well, so there's been an agreement reached in which the Senate will recess for the weekend. The House impeachment managers and the president's defense team will deliver closing statements Monday morning.

CHANG: OK.

MAK: Then senators will be given until Wednesday to speak on the Senate floor to explain their positions on the impeachment trial. And a final vote is now expected to happen at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, a day after the president delivers his State of the Union address. This new timeline means that 2020 presidential candidates in the Senate will be able to spend a couple days in Iowa ahead of the caucuses next week. And tonight, in a last-ditch effort, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer proposed subpoenas of top White House officials.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: Now, Mr. Chief Justice, I send an amendment to the desk to subpoena Mulvaney, Bolton, Duffy, Blair and the White House OMB, DoD and State Department documents. And I ask that it be read.

MAK: And he submitted one to subpoena John Bolton, but these amendments failed.

CHANG: Yeah, we've been talking for days about this question, whether new witnesses will be called in this trial. How did that vote unfold today?

MAK: Well, the House impeachment managers seized on a New York Times article that said former national security adviser John Bolton had yet more information relevant to the impeachment allegations. House impeachment manager Jason Crow put it this way.

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JASON CROW: Ambassador Bolton reportedly knows, quote, "new details about senior cabinet officials who have publicly tried to sidestep involvement," end quote, including Secretary Pompeo and Mr. Mulvaney's knowledge of the scheme.

MAK: But after around four hours of debate on the matter, the Senate went into a quorum call, a procedural process meant to allow senators to confer among themselves. And then suddenly, a vote was called very quickly and unexpectedly. As you mentioned earlier, the final vote was 51 against witnesses - all Republicans - and 49 for witnesses.

CHANG: And what was the immediate reaction to that vote?

MAK: Well, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer went to the cameras and echoed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He said that without witnesses, the president will not have been subject to a fair trial and thus will never be properly acquitted.

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SCHUMER: If the president is acquitted with no witnesses, no documents, the acquittal will have no value because Americans will know that this trial was not a real trial. It had no witnesses, no documents. It is a tragedy on a very large scale.

MAK: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, said in a statement that the Senate should not have had to expand on the House's investigation and that new witnesses are not needed because the House impeachment managers have argued repeatedly that their evidence is already overwhelming.

There does not remain much more uncertainty about the outcome of the trial at this point. For the past two weeks, the question was not whether the president will be convicted and removed. Remember that that would take 67 votes, and there's never really been any indication of a large-scale Republican defection. The question was about whether the trial would involve additional witnesses. And with that question settled, we can expect the president's acquittal next Wednesday.

CHANG: All right. Well, that is NPR's Tim Mak.

Thank you, Tim.

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