Washington (CBS News) — The Senate rejected a motion to allow consideration of additional witnesses and documents in President Trump’s impeachment trial, rebuffing Democrats and virtually ensuring the president’s ultimate acquittal on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The motion failed by a vote of 49 to 51 on Friday, the 10th day of proceedings against the president in the upper chamber. Democrats failed to convince four Republicans to join them in voting to allow new evidence, with just two GOP lawmakers — Susan Collins and Mitt Romney — crossing the aisle.
The timeline for the trial going forward remains unclear. The Senate stood in recess after the vote, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said lawmakers would meet “to determine next steps as we prepare to conclude the trial in the coming days.” Democrats could deploy procedural hurdles delaying a final vote into next week.
On Friday, Republicans and the president’s legal team argued the introduction of new witnesses and documents would prolong the trial for weeks or months.
They also warned the move would set a precedent of the Senate conducting its own impeachment investigation, arguing the House should have exhausted its options to compel testimony before impeaching the president. Some Republicans conceded the president acted improperly by pressuring Ukraine, but said removing him from office would lead to more frequent and more partisan impeachment proceedings.
“If this shallow, hurried and wholly partisan impeachment were to succeed, it would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist,” Senator Lamar Alexander, one of the Republicans who was on the fence, said in a statement Thursday. “It would create the weapon of perpetual impeachment to be used against future presidents whenever the House of Representatives is of a different political party.”
The House managers, however, warned that failing to pursue new testimony from officials like former national security adviser John Bolton would set a “very dangerous and long-lasting precedent” that would “nullify” Congress’ impeachment power.
“This will set a new precedent. This will be cited in impeachment trials from this point until the end of history,” Schiff said. “You can bet that in every impeachment that follows, whether it’s a presidential impeachment or the impeachment of a judge, if that judge or president believes that it is to his or her advantage that there will be a trial with no witnesses, they will cite the case of Donald J. Trump.”
New revelations by former national security adviser John Bolton hung over Friday’s vote and served to punctuate Democrats’ arguments. The Senate reconvened just after The New York Times reported new details from a manuscript of Bolton’s upcoming book.
Bolton writes, according to The Times, that the president instructed him to call the president of Ukraine and tell him to meet with Rudy Giuliani in May 2019. Bolton’s reported account is the earliest indication of the president’s direct involvement in the campaign to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. Bolton has said he would appear before the Senate if he was subpoenaed.