After six days of arguments and two days of questions and answers, Senate Republicans appear to have enough votes to block Democratic efforts to extend President Trump’s impeachment trial in order to call additional witnesses and subpoena documents.
Of the four Republican senators who Democrats had been counting on to combine with their 47 senators for a majority of 51, only one — Maine’s Susan Collins — has pledged to vote to call additional witnesses when senators consider the matter on Friday. While a 50-50 tie could be broken by Chief Justice John Roberts, it is unlikely that Roberts would choose to exercise such a prerogative, and such a result would result in a motion failing.
Collins, who is facing a tough reelection challenger in Maine House Speaker Sarah Gideon, said in a statement that the multiple days of questions and arguments from attorneys have allowed senators to make an “informed judgement” about “what is in dispute and what is important to the underlying issues.”
“I worked with colleagues to ensure the schedule for the trial included a guaranteed up-or-down vote on whether or not to call witnesses,” Collins said.
“I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity. Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed.”
Two other Republican senators who thought to be in favor of voting to allow consideration of additional testimony, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Utah’s Mitt Romney, told reporters they’d make their decision known Friday morning as they left the Senate when it adjourned at roughly 11:00 pm Thursday evening.
But the senator who many Democrats were counting on to be the fourth vote in favor of witnesses, Tennesee’s Lamar Alexander, said he will not be voting to make votes on individual witnesses in order.
Alexander, who will retire from the Senate in 2021, said in a statement posted to his website that there was no more need to hear testimony or view more evidence to prove the central allegation laid out in the first article of impeachment against Trump, that he’d illegally withheld aid to Ukraine to pressure that country’s president into announcing an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his family.
“There is no need for more evidence to prove that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter; he said this on television on October 3, 2019, and during his July 25, 2019, telephone call with the president of Ukraine,” Alexander said. “There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House managers have proved this with what they call a ‘mountain of overwhelming evidence.’
While Trump has maintained that he did nothing wrong, Alexander said it was “inappropriate” for him “to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation.”
“When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law,” he said, but cautioned that such conduct was not sufficient cause to remove Trump from office and prohibit him from holding office in the future.
“The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did,” he said. “I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday.”