The vote means Republicans will soon move to end the trial, signaling an acquittal for Trump on Wednesday. A deal between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will set up that vote, on whether Trump should be removed from office, for 4 p.m.
The deal, which passed the Senate Friday nights, means Trump will not be acquitted until after his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
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Senators ended 16 hours of questions on Thursday night, mostly debating whether the president’s decision to ask a foreign country, Ukraine, to investigate a political rival is an impeachable offense.
House Democrats have argued that Trump abused his power when he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his family by holding up military aid to the country. Trump’s lawyers, however, have said it’s not impeachable for a president to request dirt on a political opponent from a foreign country.
Republicans largely seem to be buying that argument, now saying that while they believe Trump did hold up the aid in exchange for Ukraine announcing investigations to help the president in 2020, they don't think his actions are impeachable.
Friday’s session began at 1 p.m. with up to four hours of debate on whether the Senate should call witnesses before senators actually vote on the issue. But the vote appeared likely to fail after two key Republicans announced they will vote against it: Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.
Democrats fell short of the 51 votes they needed for the Senate to allow witnesses in the trial, with just Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah joining them. The vote failed 49–51.
Late Thursday night, Collins gave Democrats some hope, releasing a statement that she would vote to request witnesses. But the statements from Alexander and Murkowski mean the vote is likely to fail. Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who is retiring at the end of the year, called Trump’s handling of Ukraine “inappropriate” but ultimately decided to side with his Republican colleagues in blocking witnesses.
Murkowski, by contrast, didn't address the allegations against Trump directly; she instead said the House's case against the president was "rushed and flawed" and railing against partisanship.
“Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate. I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed," she said.
Democrats had called for witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton, who reportedly wrote in an unpublished draft of his upcoming book that Trump told him directly he was withholding aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens.
Democrats had also discussed calling to testify acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Mulvaney adviser Robert Blair, and Michael Duffey, an official with the Office of Management and Budget who was told to hold up aid to Ukraine.
Republicans argued Democrats should have introduced all witnesses during the House’s impeachment inquiry and that there is insufficient evidence for additional witnesses. Conversely, Democrats say the president stonewalled the witnesses invoking executive privilege.
But if Democrats were able to get Bolton and other witnesses to testify in the trial, Republicans had discussed calling Biden, his son Hunter, and others to speak.
Democrats forced additional votes Friday evening, again calling on the Senate to subpoena Bolton and other witnesses, but those measure also failed.
Republicans appeared certain at the end of this week that the trial would wrap up on Friday. but anticipated that Democrats would introduce a slew of amendments that could push the proceedings well into the morning. Wanting to avoid another very late night, senators reached a deal.
The new plan means that the Senate will take the weekend off and return to the trial on Monday at 11 a.m. for four hours total of closing arguments from both legal teams. The Senate will then take Tuesday off for Trump's State of the Union that night and will resume the trial on Wednesday at 4 p.m. with a vote on whether Trump should be removed from office.
House Democrats impeached Trump on Dec. 18 on charges of abuse of power, for his role in the Ukraine saga, and obstruction of Congress, for preventing members of his administration from testifying or turning over documents in the House’s investigation.
As per the rules, senators are required to sit silently in the chambers without their phones throughout the trial, which has gone late into the night. By week two, senators on both sides of the aisle were visibly restless, taking standing breaks, having open conversations off to the side of the Senate floor, and applying eye drops while seated.
The exhaustion was also on display in a slip of the tongue from Sen. Roy Blunt, who referred to Republican colleague Sen. Martha McSally as Claire McCaskill, a Democratic senator no longer in office.