Democrats were hoping four Republican senators would join them in voting to consider witnesses but they got only two: Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah. They were defeated in a 51–49 vote.
The outcome of the vote became a foregone conclusion after Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander, who had flirted with the possibility of voting for witnesses, announced that they believed no further evidence was needed in the trial.
The decision means that senators will not hear from former national security adviser John Bolton, the one senior Trump administration figure who had agreed to appear before the Senate trial if subpoenaed. Bolton has written an unpublished memoir in which he reportedly recounts Trump saying he would hold up military aid to Ukraine until the country announced an investigation into the Biden family.
Trump’s Senate trial now moves on to its final stages. Trump is all but certain to be acquitted of both impeachment articles by the Republican majority and remain in office. It’s unclear when that vote will take place as senators work on a deal to determine how the trial will go forward.
Democrats had argued forcefully for witnesses, saying the trial will lack all legitimacy if none are called. But Republicans raised a variety of counterarguments. They argued the House should have completed its court battle with the Trump administration over whether it can subpoena witnesses in defiance of the White House. They also said calling witnesses in the Senate would lead to a court battle lasting weeks or months, preventing the Senate from conducting normal business.
On Thursday, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff offered a compromise, in which the Senate would hear from witnesses for just one week — the same as in former president Bill Clinton’s trial — but that was rejected.
News of Bolton’s memoir broke Sunday and threw the Senate into disarray. Democrats used it to mount a pressure campaign for calling witnesses, and for a few days it looked like that might happen. Republicans were openly musing about what witnesses they might call to pair with Bolton being called by House lawyers. They also talked about wanting to at least see the Bolton manuscript.
But in the end, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was able to convince his conference to block witnesses, laying the groundwork for Republicans to acquit the president in the next few days.
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